Roy Williams Is at it Again

Hello… there,

That’s right, you guessed it, Roy Williams is at it again with his constant crusade of logical fallacies with yet another Seemingly intelligent argument, which, upon some investigation, turns out to be of no particular interest or value. In his most recent hashing of facts and evidence, Roy Williams has made the claim that humans’ ability to articulate the underlying laws of physics is proof of god. He says that there is no evolutionary advantage to us being able to understand, “The deep underlying reason why the apple fell to the ground” as opposed to, “Oh look, the apple fell towards the ground.” In today’s post, I am going to be showing how, 1. We aren’t actually very good with the understanding of the things, 2. We need a lot of help to try to understand the things, and 3. Evolution accounts for our apparent ability to understand the things.

First of all, the fact that we aren’t actually very good at maths. Here is a little thought experiment. Take a dozen or so coins, and ask somebody to be a volunteer for your experiment. Tell them that they are to tell you how many coins are in your hand, without using any sort of counting system. if they played by the rules, they will be clueless as to how many coins you are holding. This is because humans are not very good at counting, believe it or not, humans suck at math. Everything we know about maths, had to be learnt. Humans are good at the talking and the language and the problem solving, but not the math.

That brings me to my second point, If we never taught ourselves a number system to count things, we would be clueless. If you are counting things past about ten, then when you are counting it, you won’t be thinking about the actual amount of things, you are thinking about how many times you have counted one unit. We say, “I counted 43 sheep”, but really we are just adding one more to the clicker, we don’t actually know how much that 43 is.

On to my next and final point, Evolution accounts for our ability to discover the maths of black holes, and the big bang. We are humans, and humans, face it, are not very strong. We are very weak, and we are very slow, so we must have something to survive with, that is our humongous brains. So obviously, it benefits us to be able to problem solve, and communicate, and count things to a small degree. When we learnt how to count up to the number of appendages on the ends of our arms, we had to be able to describe it to people, so we gave all the appendages on our arms names, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. With this we had maths, from there, everything flowed, because our problem solving ability leads us to question things, and so we used math to figure out those questions. Then the human condition of curiosity took over, looking into the world around us. It is possible to explain our maths ability through evolution.

I will leave you with a quote from Richard Dawkins, “Bertrand Russell used a hypothetical teapot in orbit about Mars for the same didactic purpose. You have to be agnostic about the teapot, but that doesn’t mean you treat the likelihood of its existence as being on all fours with its non-existence.” Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist, writer and atheist of some note.

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Roy Williams is making yet another straw man

I am reading through god, actually, by Roy Williams and I have decided that I am going to be blogging about all off the big errors he makes in his logic. Today’s post will be about how Roy has yet again oversimplified and misrepresented atheism, agnosticism and skepticism. Roy has made the claim that atheists fall into two categories when it comes to how we perceive ourselves (humans) in the universe. He has summed them up as follows:-
One extreme is the belief that humans are just another animal, they are in no way different from chimps or mice or dogs or frogs or sheep or mosquitoes.
The other end of the spectrum is that humans are superior to all other things in the universe, and are very special. and are gods of the universe, humanism. 

Williams then shoots down the first point by saying that humans are a special sort of animal, with conscience and cognition.
He also then dismantled humanism by saying that we do not have free power over the whole universe, and that we do not have the whole universe to use as a mining site.

I am going to be arguing about these two misconceptions in today’s post.

When Williams states that some atheists believe that humans are just other animals, to some extent I agree with him, but he has taken it beyond the extreme, a classic straw man argument. Any atheist who believes that humans are just another mammal will agree that humans are a very unique type of animal. We do have very good cognition and a conscience to base our decisions on. but atheists do not say that humans are just exactly like chimps and apes and we have no special worth on this planet.

The other end of the spectrum is also just the same straw man. Most humanists believe that humans are a special type of mammal, but that they have arrived out of all other mammals. No humanist that I know believes that humans are gods of this planet.

Williams then asserts that humans are unique and that this must mean that there is a god which designed us. I do not think that this is a logically valid assumption. It is easily explained by nature how a species like us could have come into being, but I will talk about that tomorrow night.

I will leave you with a quote from John Ralston Saul, “Humanism: an exaltation of freedom, but one limited by our need to exercise it as an integral part of nature and society.” John Ralston Saul, a Canadian author 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.

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.

Is skepticism a religion?

Hello to all of my skeptical fellows,

I was recently addressed with a point from my father, it is one of his main attacks on scientific skepticism and atheism, and I have heard it from others. He stated that skepticism is a religion and it is no different from any other ideology (ideologies are different to religion, but this is what my father said, not me). I think this is an interesting misconception and I will be talking about it in today’s post. There are dozens of differences between skepticism and religions, and I will only touch on a few today, but I may do some more at a later date.

One of the main reasons why the world view which is scientific skepticism is different to different world views such as Christianity or Marxism is that skepticism is the only ideology which has any tangible relationship with reality, and is willing to change its ideas to fit the evidence. Scientific skepticism is the only ideology which will change any of its views when it has definitively been proved to be incorrect. You may say that the Catholics are able to be swayed by the evidence too, and I agree that the Catholic church has done well to support evolution and an old-earth theory of the world, but they will only do it to the extent that it does not go against their main base ideology that god exists and Jesus rose after three days.

Scientific skepticism is also unlike religions in that they do not worship, nor acknowledge the existence of a supernatural or supreme deity. Of course, if it is proven that such a supreme being does exist, then we will change our views to say that there is a supreme deity, but most scientific, skeptical, agnostic atheists are pretty sure that that will never happen.

Scientific Skepticism is also the only ideology which does not have any preconceived notions about the universe which we live in. It is happy for the science and the evidence to show the way they should think about the world. No other ideology has started with no predisposed beliefs and let the evidence take them where it takes them.

Scientific skepticism is the only ideology which, upon there not currently being any evidence about the subject, will simply say “We don’t know what is going on here.” This is unlike all other religions and ideologies which will fill this gap in their knowledge with whatever predetermined beliefs they have about the universe.

That is all for me today, I will be posting about this again soon. I will leave you with a quote from Mark Twain, ” When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself.” Mark Twain, an author and humorist of some note.

I am going to be adding a question to the each post from now on, and you can give your answers in the comments or by emailing me. Today’s question is ‘How many DNA base pairs are there in the human genome?”

Agnostic Atheist Wager

Today I am going to be making my comments on a response by the atheist community to Pascals Wager, a common religion argument used by christian’s and people of other religions alike. But first, I should give a brief on Pascals wager. Pascals wager is an argument first presented by philosopher Blaise Pascal which shows that it is much better for a person to believe in god than to not believe in a god. It goes along the lines of:
There are two possibilities, either god exists or god doesn’t exist.
Lets say god exists, if you believe he exists, then you get infinite reward in afterlife, if you don’t believe he exists, you loose infinite with hell in the afterlife.
Lets say god doesn’t exist, if you believe he exists, you loose a little bit wasting your time praying etc., if you don’t believe he exists, you win a little bit by not wasting your time praying etc.

Now, when you look at it like that it seems that the obvious choice is to choose to believe in god. But its not quite that simple, there are actually quite a few problems with it.

The biggest one which is what I will talk about is the fact that there are more than one possible ‘god exists’ outcomes, because it could be the christian god, the muslim god, the islam god, zeus, odin, the flying spaghetti monster or the religion of some far flung tribe in south america. This means that belief in the wrong god means that you receive eternal hell-fire even though you thought you could beat the system by believing.

This guy is a genius

The other problem is that the god in question here would be able to see the reasons for your ‘faith’, and may reject you if you only pretend to believe because the odds are good. Believing in a religion only because of pascal’s wager is pretty sly and god would be very happy with your actions.

A response to pascal’s wager put forward by the agnostic atheist community is the AA (atheist agnostic) wager. It states that god would choose somebody’s afterlife fate based on their earthly actions, not on blind faith. This means that the wager can be expanded to the following:
god exists                 |you believe, live a good life, you get heaven.
|you believe, live a bad life, you get hell.
|you don’t believe, live a good life, you get heaven.
|you don’t believe, live a bad life, you get hell.

god does not exist|you believe, live a good life, people like you.
|you believe, live a bad life, people hate you.
|you don’t believe, live a good life, people like you.
|you don’t believe, live a bad life, people hate you.

In this table, living a good life will always result in the best outcome, irrespective of belief. A common rebuttal by religious people is that the god may care whether you believe in him or not, and the answer to this argument is: If this god does exist, and he lets in murderers and nazis if they believe, then hell isn’t looking like a bad place to spend eternity in.

Anyway, that’s all for me. I will leave you with a very pithy quote from one of the greatest skeptics from the last century,

“Extraordinary Claims require extraordinary evidence”

Carl Sagan, astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and science popularizer of some note.