Infanticide VS the Atomic Bomb

Greetings and Salutations skeptics,

While watching a debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens, a particular question was put forward to Hitchens by an audience member. it went along the lines of “If you are so critical of all of the harm caused by religion, then surely you must be more critical of the atomic bomb, created by physicists, the most dangerous weapon in all of history”. In today’s blog post, I will answer the question, and point out a vital difference between the screw-ups of religion and the screw-ups of science.

When Hitler decided to wipe out the Jews, as well as other historical events enacted for purely religious reasons, the decision was made to intentionally perform violence against a particular race, religion, culture or age group. These groups of people made the choice to go out and kill, abuse, rape, torture, pillage or conquer particular people for religious reasons.

When Physicists embarked on creating the atomic bomb, they were simply doing what scientists do, following the evidence to see where the research leads. By looking at Einstein’s most famous formula, it is obvious that a great amount of energy is potent in every atom in the universe, so physicists decided to go out and test it, to see how they could tap into this energy. It could then be argued “Why didn’t the physicists just stop at nuclear power stations, and avoid an atomic bomb?”

Well, its not that simple, seeing as the same mechanisms are used in both apparatus, and they are both using the same underlying physics, but there was reason behind the decision to create an atomic bomb. It is the same reason that almost every dedicated scientist has for creating ruthless killing machines, they are trying to end warfare. By creating the atomic bomb, physicists where aiming to end world warfare, by making it so ruthless, so destructive and so vile that it just could not be done. The same aim was shared by Alfred Nobel, who created dynamite. It didn’t work with dynamite, it just made war more efficient, but it worked with the atomic bomb, eventually. Warfare between the large countries is impossible today, as any one of them could wipe out an entire country with its nuclear arsenal, so they have to be very friendly with each other.

There is the vital difference, religious people are simply going out, to kill or harm a particular group of people, where as physicists are just following the research where the evidence leads, and trying their hardest to end world war. It is only symbolic of the underlying process of religion, as opposed to science.

Science is a process of testing a hypothesis critically and rigorously, and drawing from those tests a theory or subsequent hypothesis, which you test again, and again, to try and best understand the reality we live in. There is no a priori assumption in science. Whereas in religion, there is one big assumption, god. All of religion revolves around the god hypothesis being true, and any evidence for god presented by religion has been cherry-picked to prove the a priori assumption which is god.

Is Lawrence Krauss’ Nothing Really Nothing? – Does it Matter

Sveiki Skeptics,

Not to long ago, Lawrence Krauss published a book entitled “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?”, and there was a lot of hype over it, he made all the rounds on the scientific, atheistic and religious podcasts, and was often criticized for many reasons. One of the most commonly argued points by the religious was that the nothing that Lawrence Krauss describes is not ‘strictly’ nothing. Today, I will not try to argue that it is nothing, or that we know how to get something from ‘strictly’ nothing, I am going to argue that it doesn’t really matter, and try to and explain why it is an important part of the progress of science.

First of all, an explanation of Lawrence Krauss’ ‘nothing’. When he talks about something coming from ‘nothing’ which has been proven by science, he is talking about  the vacuum of space, as well as a TOE and electromagnetic fields and gravity. In the vacuum of space, matter and antimatter are created fleetingly, and then come back together and collide back into nothingness. This has been proven by science, and is the reason Hawking radiation exists, causing the shrinking of black holes. One particle of antimatter goes into the black hole, and the other particle of matter goes off into other places, taking down the net weight of the black hole. This happens all the time, everywhere.

When he suggests that the universe can be created from nothing, he is talking about absolute nothingness + a TOE. He gets a lot of flack from the religious about that. They argue that it is really not nothing, and I agree. However, it is unscientific to just say, “Well, its not nothing, ergo God.”

The process of science is to continually discover more and more about the universe, and at no time saying that there is no more that can be found. Science works by looking and looking. But for the religious to just dismiss it because it isn’t quite nothing yet, is just terrible.

Another argument is that you cannot get something from purely nothing, and therefore it is pointless to even bother. But for the religious to just say that something can never come from nothing is hypocritical. The whole concept of religion is that god just IS, ad will always BE. Yet they say that everything has to have a cause.
“Everything has to have a cause… except God.”

The point that Lawrence Krauss’ makes, that something can come from almost nothing, is a valuable scientific contribution, and is important for the progress of science. And religious criticism of this is completely hypocritical, as is almost all cosmological arguments for god, or against natural arguments against god.

Confirmation Bias

Hallo skeptics,

Today I am going to be blogging about one of the most commonly used logical fallacies out there, confirmation bias. It is used in a range of topics including alternative medicine, religion, UFOlogy, astrology, psychics, mediums, and almost all topics which skeptics keep tabs on. Confirmation bias is a logical fallacy which is often referred to as cherry-picking, however is slightly different. While similar, cherry-picking refers to picking single studies from a sea of negative papers, confirmation bias is the picking out of specific results, not specific studies.

One of the most simple and common uses of confirmation bias is praying. I recently saw one of those Facebook like-hoarding pictures which asks for likes to confirm ones religious views, which read “Like this photo and in the next 120 seconds god will do you a favour”… it had over 30 000 likes. I read that and immediately saw it as a perfect example of confirmation bias. To anybody who likes that status, I can almost guarantee that something good will happen to them in the next 120 seconds. The reason is that people want it to come true. If something slightly good happens to that person in the next 120 seconds, they will attribute that to liking the photo… your basketball team makes a buzzer-beating game winner? God did that. Mum decides to give you a little extra ice-cream for dessert? god did that. Get a new twitter follower? god did that. Whatever happens, god is the reason.

It doesn’t even have to be within 2 minutes, you will remember anything that happens for the whole rest of the day and give credit to god… because a thousand years is like a day and a day is like a thousand years, or some post hoc reasoning like that. Even if nothing good happens, that means the devil was going to do something bad to you but god saved you because you liked the photo.

This photo is a perfect example of how confirmation bias works. Another common example is in alternative medicine. Lets say somebody gets cancer, and they decide to, along with their doctor approved, scientific medicine, have a chiropractor try to fix it. Once the cancer has been removed, the patient might only remember the chiropractic treatment that cured the cancer, and forget all the scientific medicine that actually removed the cancer.

Confirmation bias is one of the most common fallacies out, and is often combined with other fallacies like post hoc ergo proctor hoc, placebo, reliance on memory and the availability heuristic to form the greatest of all fallacies, the anecdotal evidence.

Is God the Final Arbiter of Morality?

Ciao skeptics,

In today’s post, I am going to be talking about an argument which originally I could not find a problem with, due to the fact that it had all the bases covered. I knew there was something wrong with the argument, but I couldn’t find any holes with it. First though, some background.

In Ethics & Faith a fortnight ago, the topic for the lesson was morals, and I thought to my self how easy it would be to sweep the room, seeing how immoral the old-testament god is. I brought up the old idea asking whether or not killing 1 to save 100 is moral. He told me that killing the 1 to save 100 was immoral, and that he would do nothing, due to the fact that his bible told him to never murder. I then proposed the point that if killing 1 to save 100 is immoral, then god wiping out 2 whole cities, Sodom & Gomorrah, to stop them from a bit of rape and blasphemy must be magnitudes more moral. What he said next is the argument which stuck me up, he told me that god is the final arbiter of morality, what he says goes, and that his ways are higher than our ways.
I’d heard many Christians say before “God’s ways are higher than our ways”, but I had never heard the murder of the old-testament god justified by this cop-out. Basically telling me that god writes the rules, he can do whatever he wants because what he says goes, and that the definition of morality is god.

I immediately had to think about this one, and I could not find anything wrong with it, if you accept that god writes the rules. But both of the eventual holes I found with the argument came about during more recent discussions with the school father.

The first comes about due to a story about Jesus. When Jesus is growing up, he goes fasting in the desert for a while, and is tempted by the devil, so that he can experience the ways of humans. When I was reminded of this story, I had a light-bulb moment. If Jesus is god, and god can justify his actions due to the fact that he is god, then why doesn’t Jesus succumb to temptation and do what the devil says. I mean, it’s not a sin when Jesus does it, because god writes the rule book. Jesus can do what ever he likes, turn the stones into bread, because he can write a loop-hole in the rule book which allows him to do it. After thinking “So god can write and re-write the rules when he likes then… that reminds me of something I know” I had a second argument against this excuse of god.

The second inspirational moment I had was during school worship, when our Father told us (and god) that God is worthy of much worship and praise. Any god who can do what they want, when they want, even if it is against the rules they write, is definitely NOT worth praise!

Anybody who has ever been outside around children has met somebody who changes the rules when they like to suit them. There are people like that who still act that way into their adulthood. When you spend some time with them, you get very angry at them, and have some thoughts about them which can be summed up with “Hypocrite!”
Now imagine that this person is your god! If you knew that your god could kill you right now, as well as the rest of your family and friends, for no particular reason, and justify it by saying “Well, I write the rule book, so I can do what I want.” I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of eternity with this bloke, living by his rules, which could change at any time, whenever he wants to do something the rules don’t allow him to.

God, if he is allowed to do whatever he likes, because he writes the rules, is not going to be a very good god to live with, and is a god who I would not call god. He would be the sort of guy who would say “Do as I say, not as I do.” which is a huge sidestep on morality.

Does god see ‘absolutely’ everything?

Hi there skeptics,

Today I am going to be blogging about an issue which I originally brought up as a joke, but soon realized that it shows some serious insight into how god got started in the first place. I posted on my twitter page the following quote, “What if god saw everything including the entire EM spectrum, radio signals, gamma rays, ultraviolet and infrared light and x-rays?”. It was initially meant as a joke about god’s so-called ability to ‘see everything’, but it got me thinking… People automatically assume no, but that’s not necessarily true. Tonight I will extrapolate on this thought.

First thing I will say is this. What you see, your entire light spectrum, from red all the way through to violet, all the colours of the visible rainbow, are just a small bandwidth in the light spectrum. The colours we see all have a specific wave length, red the shortest wave length and violet the longest. But these are not the only wave lengths of light. The wave lengths shorter than red are called ‘infrared’, while the wave lengths beyond violet are called ‘ultraviolet’. Along this wave length spectrum sits everything else which is transmitted through electromagnetic waves… x-ray, gamma ray, radio waves, television signals, everything is just light that we can’t see. The reason we don’t see this light is because our eyes were not made to pick up these wave lengths.

Back to the main question.  The automatic reaction of every religious person I have asked is ‘no, of course not!’ or similar. But there is nothing special about the light we see, other than it’s the light we see. Nothing makes it different from any other light on the spectrum. It is true that it is the wavelength given off most by the sun, but the reason they correlate is because animals evolved to pick up as much light as possible from the sun. Nothing makes the light we see ‘different’ from the light we don’t see. If we ever discover other life in the universe, it is possible, most likely actually, that these lifeforms will see different wavelengths of light.

So, what does this have to do with god? Well, I think the fact that religious people straight away answer no to the question gives insight into god. I think the reason why god doesn’t see all the other light is because we created him to be just like us, but way more powerful and knowledgeable. He is just a comfort to us when we are feeling down. So of course he only sees the same light that you do, otherwise he might not get what you are talking about when you describe colours to him.

Some may respond that this is because “God created man to his own image” (Genesis 1:27). This is a weak answer because the only plausible god in today’s age is a god who has more than just an interest in humans (he has 14 billion light years of space to cater to) and would need to see more than just one tiny sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum which happens to be visible to an insignificant planet with a few organisms on it. I think that the adverse is true, Human’s created god in their image, as comfort for them and to provide answers to unknown questions.

Was I indoctrinated to Atheism?

Hello skeptics the world over,

Recently, in a discussion with my mother about whether I should be heading to church on Sunday, she made the claim that I was indoctrinated by podcasts such as ‘The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe’ and other science and skeptical podcasts and websites, and said that I am ‘just as brainwashed’ as I claim Christians to be. I will be hoping to respond to this question in-depth tonight.

The first thing I will point out is the contrast of ‘indoctrinations’ between my skepticism and Christianity as a child. When I was indoctrinated to Christianity as a child, I was given the whole nine yards, Genesis creation, the flood and Noah’s Ark, Tower of Babel, Jesus, all the bible had to offer. When I was ‘indoctrinated’ into skepticism and atheism, it was almost the exact opposite. Instead of being given a list of things I had to believe, how to believe them and a book to read it from, when I was indoctrinated by The Skeptic’s Guide, I was only given a list of things which are logical, and most importantly, a list of things which weren’t logical. That’s why I am a champion of skepticism, not atheism. yes I am an atheist, but I am an atheist because of skepticism. Skeptics don’t tell you what to believe, they just give you the package of logic and evidence.

I wasn’t told to become a skeptic and an atheist by ‘the skeptics guide’, I was just told, “Hey, some of what you believe is not very logical and has no evidence to support it, look at what we think, be logical and look at the evidence, and make your decision.” and look at where I am now.

The other main difference between my two ‘indoctrinations’ is choice. When I was indoctrinated into Christianity, I didn’t know about atheism, humanism, naturalism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, or any other amount of religions. I was just having Christianity handed to me on a silver plate, with a bit of evolution thrown into the mix, as I still had to have some science. But there wasn’t much choice for me. When I was introduced to skepticism, I had heard about all the other religions and world-views, and I chose to go with agnostic atheism, and later onto agnostic anti-theism. That’s also why I am a champion of free-thought, because giving a child the choice is the most important thing they can have. I will talk about free-thought and children in a later post.

I was not indoctrinated into atheism or skepticism like the way children born into christian homes are indoctrinated, I was given a choice and I was not forced into it, and that is the key difference… choice. That’s all for today, I’ll leave you with a quote from an anonymous author/sayer of words, “Trying to close a mind that has not yet had the chance to be opened, is the worst form of child abuse.”

Does Science Uncover What the Scriptures Predicted?

Hello there, skeptics and critical thinkers,

I have recently been listening to ‘Unbelievable?’ the podcast on Premier Christian Radio, and they have been championing a view which I have heard by quite a lot of Christians. They believe that the new discoveries of science all point towards what the bible has been saying for the last couple of thousand years. They say that the bible has been saying things about the multiverse, fine-tuning of the universe and evolution for years and years, and will point to specific verses in the bible which is said to talk about these topics. Today I will be giving my two-cents about this idea.

One of the most common verses is that the bible says that the earth is a sphere, and point to Isaiah 40:22, which states, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth”. Many point to this and say, “See, the Bible thought the Earth was a sphere even before Science thought it”. Other’s will point to Hebrews 11:3 and say, “Aha! The bible also predicts atoms!”, Hebrews 11:3 actually states “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do”. A few things can be said about these verses. First of all… VAGUE!!! These are just a small snippet of the amazingly wishy-washy talk which is the bible. Most psychics could make much more specific claims than what we just read, and we all know how vague and unspecific psychics are.

The second is that these verses are open to quite a lot of interpretation. Take Isaiah 40:22, for example. This verse could be interpreted as meaning that the world is a flat disc. Seeing that it says ‘circle’ and not ‘sphere’ would probably suggest that it means ‘circle’. It’s quite a leap to go from “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth” to “the Earth is a sphere”. When people bring up this verse to suggest a circular earth, they often also say that the ‘science’ of the time and throughout the middle ages thought the earth was a disc. What they are forgetting is that they probably made that judgement based on what they read in these few passages.

Another thing to bring up is this. When people scour through their bible to find passages like this that support the science of today, they are forgetting and reading past the MOUNTAINS of biblical scripture which is in direct contradiction with science. They ignore the entire Genesis story, the rising of Lazarus and Jesus, parting of the seas, and countless miracles which are strictly in disagreement with what science thinks about the universe and nature.

There is a large scope of views on this point, from Hugh Ross, founder of ‘Reasons to Believe’, who thinks that all of modern science has been predicted by the bible, to views like mine, who think that they are all just some lucky guesses amongst a vast sea of incorrect statements, logical fallacies and falsehoods, written in a vague, wishy-washy talk which is similar to the psychic predictions we are all familiar with. But I hope that I have swayed you towards a more skeptical view of these claims.

Moral Relativism – An Overview

Hello skeptics of our local cluster,

Today’s post is going to be about moral relativism, and how it is a secular replacement for the morals of the bible. As an atheist, I am often asked this question or similar “As an atheist, where do you get your morals?”, and I often give a condensed description of moral relativism to them. Religious people often object to atheism because a set of morals are not set out by a deity, and it seems to be without any set of morals, but most atheists are moral (less than 1% of prisoners in the US are atheist), so there must be some morals which we all seem to follow, or something like it. But without a concrete basis for our morals (god), there has to be another way to make moral decisions.

The moral system which I choose to live by are those of moral relativism. At its core, moral relativism is basically just the aim to reduce harm, and this seems to be a logical decision to make. There is no gold standard of morality in moral relativism, as there is in most religions, just a sliding scale of ‘immoral things’ on the far left, over to ‘moral things’ over on the far left. By always just choosing the option which causes the lest harm, you are keeping yourself open to doing anything, so long as it is the right thing to do.

I asked my religion teacher during a lesson about evils, if it is morally right to kill 1 person to save 100 hundred people. I gave the story of a man who had a boy, and worked operating a train draw bridge over a canyon. One day, there was a train which approached, but the man noticed that his son was playing in the large gears of the bridge, there were only two choices the man could make, lower the bridge and save the lives of the hundreds on the train, and kill his son, or keep the bridge up, kill hundreds on the train, and save his son. To my surprise, my teacher said that he would not kill 1 to save 100, and he said that god is the ultimate decider on the right thing to do. This is a circular morality with no clear way to make decisions, because one cannot simply ask god every time a decision has to be made, and even if you could, science is of the opinion that you are hearing your own thoughts reflected back on you, dressed up in gods voice.

Another question asked by champions of absolute morality is “Is it absolutely morally wrong to rape a child and enjoy it?”, and to that I answer “no”. If somebody says to you, with a gun in hand, “Rape this child and enjoy it or I will kill both of you and your families”, you sure as hell will rape that child, and maintain a smile throughout. That’s the great thing about moral relativism, its flexible to all decisions, just make sure to reduce harm. In my above hypothetical, a Christian would run into a wall, as both paths result in some sort of immorality, either raping a child or being responsible for the deaths of at least a dozen people. A moral relativist has an easy decision, because death is of the utmost importance.

Moral relativism is a great moral system, as it never runs into any paradoxical hypotheticals, and it is a good (better) alternative to absolute morality which is championed by so many religions of today.

Roy Williams… Again

Hello there skeptics, atheists and scientists,

Today I am going to be blogging about Roy Williams again, I haven’t blogged about his arguments for a while now, I’ve been saving this one up. In his book, ‘god actually’ , Roy has a section entitled ‘Tackling arguments against a designing god’, today I am going to be rebutting some of these ‘rebuttals’. Most of his arguments are completely ridiculous in here, as he completely misses the point of particular arguments.

He discusses the idea of naturalistic, evolutionary, reasons for a religion to exist, and he misses the whole point of the idea. This argument is just a rebuttal of an argument used by Christians for religion. They say “If religion isn’t true, why does it exist. Religion must have some truth to it because otherwise why would humans have made up the concept in the first place. Natural explanations for religion like an evolutionary advantage to belief, or a ‘god center’ somewhere in the brain, are not arguments against god, as Williams portrays them as, they are rebuttals of arguments for god. And somehow, in all of it, Williams blames us for non-sequiters by saying that this is not an argument against god.

Another argument which Williams ‘takes on’ is the ‘god of the gaps’ argument, apparently, used by atheists. This is the first time I have heard god of the gaps being used to argue against god, but there you go. For as long as I can remember, the god of the gaps has been a logical fallacy describing religious people, not an argument against god. It has always been just like most, a rebuttal of theist arguments, not arguments of our own. Williams also happens to say that his beliefs are not god of the gap arguments, despite using arguments like irreducible complexity and creation of the universe, and quite often saying, “Science cannot explain this”, which is kind of the definition of the god of the gaps argument.

These are just a few of the arguments ‘taken on’ by Roy Williams, and they demonstrate the way Williams argues. He is completely unaware of the whole idea of most of the atheism VS religion debate. When it comes to science and logic, the burden of proof is on the affirmative (religion), and it is the job of the negative (atheism) to show the logical fallacies and factual incorrectness which may be present in these arguments. It’s quite fine for the religious to counter-rebut these arguments, but it’s not okay for them to claim that these are direct arguments against god, and then to just say that they are using non-sequiters. If he wants to tackle some real arguments against god, not some rebuttals, take a look at some of the apparent logical contradictions in god, the concept of cause-and-effect, or the idea of something from nothing.

That’s all for today, I will leave you with a quote from H. L. Mencken, “We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”, H. L. Mencken, an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American culture and scholar.

Why We Must Die

Hello there skeptics of the world,

Today’s post is going to be about a few of the reasons why we as humans MUST die, philosophically. Now I don’t often blog about strictly philosophical subjects, so please give me some feed back in the comments section below. There are plenty of scientific reasons why every living thing dies (for now), ageing is pretty much inevitable, and eventually, you get to the grand scheme of things, and with the whole ‘conservation of energy and mass’ and ‘total universal entropy’ thing, the universe will eventually end up as a huge ball of energy, in which you cannot survive.  But I am going to be talking about some philosophical reasons why humanity would severely disbenefit from eternal life on earth.

The first is simply the fact that we are already running out of space on this planet and if nobody ever died, the problem would be much greater. Imagine how many people there would be on earth if nobody from the last century actually died. Our world population would be about double what it is now, my guess. Could the planet actually support that? I doubt it. The is too much difficulty in people living for ever, they take up so much space, need so much food and water, and by the time they reach 70, they’ve done all they can for the world with employment etc., so they are just dead weight.

The second and main reason I want to talk about today is this, would the world still be a productive place if everybody lived for ever. In a world of eternity, there would always be tomorrow. Want to go to university and study law? In the world we live in, you go out and do it today, because your days on the earth are numbered, but in an earth of eternity, there would always be another tomorrow. I know what I would do, “Meh, I’ll just do it tomorrow, I’m living for ever anyway”. I know that whenever I am doing something which really is boring me to death, or which I know is not going to help me in any way now or in the future, I always think to myself, “I could be out learning something useful right now, or I could be writing a blog post, or I could be out earning money in a part time job mowing lawns”. In a world where I couldn’t die tomorrow, or ever, I would not think that, and just wait it out until I can do something useful.
Although I would probably never get around to doing it, because there would always be tomorrow for me to do it.

That’s all for me today, I will leave you with a quote from Pierre Abelard, “The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.”, Pierre Abelard, a French philosopher, theologian and logican.