The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of the Creation-Abiogensis/Big Bang ‘Debate’

Hello there, all my moral, just, secular people,

Today’s post was inspired by a television show which aired on the ABC (Australia) entitled Q&A, which every week presents a handful of politicians, public figures, theologians and atheists, for an open discussion and Questions from the live and internet audiences, hence the name Q&A. This weeks program was a special program, because it put forward only two panelists, along with the host, and these where the Atheist Richard Dawkins, and Catholic priest George Pell. Richard Dawkins has made appearances on the show before, but this was the first time he went ‘head-to-head’ with only a Christian joining him on the panel. The show has made quite and impact in the media, with a lot of discussion about it going on even on the radio the next morning. The show can be viewed in full right here at this link here -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi1EDDuMksw. I will surely be making my comments on the show over the next few days, but here is today’s rant.

During the show, this oft quoted argument was brought up by George Pell, he said (not an exact quote) “Science can tell us a lot about the ‘how’, with evolution and the big bang, but it doesn’t tell us a lot about they ‘why.'” This argument is talked about by Roy Williams in his book I am reading at the moment, and I have heard it from others too. This whole argument is both a red-herring and a non-sequiter, and Richard Dawkins summarized it very well, “That’s just not a valid question.” The whole question of ‘why’ does the universe exist, is not relevant, its like asking why unicorns aren’t very good at snooker. In that way it is a non-sequiter.

Even if you do grant that ‘why’ is a valid question, it is not a question for the science, nor is it a question which could change the fact that the big bang or abiogenesis happened. The question is for philosophers and humanists.

The ‘Why’ question, “Why are we here.” Is also a good example of the unstated major premace fallacy, the question just assumes that there must be some meaning for our existence, when it is quite plausible that we could have no purpose to exist.

This question is also a red herring because it side-steps the real question of the ‘how’. This is the whole problem with Roy Williams’ book, at the start he asks the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ question, and he says, “Science knows the how, but not the why, I’ll write a book about the why.” In this way he can write a whole book without having to address a single question about ‘how’.
It is a really annoying question, because to people who are not aware of the fact that ‘why’ is not a logical question, the argument can have some weight. Most people like to have a purpose for their life, and this is where they get all caught up. The miss the point that Atheism has a point too, “We only live for 80 or so years, and we have no afterlife to look forward too, so lets just make the world as good as possible in this short time.”

I will leave you with my favourite quote from the entire evening where George Pell accidentally walks all over his own argument to try to just contradict Richard Dawkins on everything,
“Dawkins: the only thing that might convince me that Christianity is true is if a 700 ft Jesus walked into the room and said ‘I exist’, and I’m not even sure if that would convince me.
Pell: I’d say ‘you are hallucinating’.”

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Why is heaven not that appealing to me?

Hello there skeptical people all over the world,

Today I am going to be blogging about the prospect of heaven, and how, if it is how the bible sets it out to be, it probably wouldn’t be such a nice place to live in.

In the bible, heaven is defined as the place where god dwells. Obviously, this is not the only place god in present, remember, god is everywhere, and in everything. But heaven is the place where he is the ruling spirit, and the devil is not allowed to come into. This also means that there is no sin in heaven, and it is supposedly the happiest place that could ever exist. Imagine the greatest place you could be in, well, heaven would be better than that.

Now, hell is not mentioned in the bible as much as heaven is, but according to most Christians, we can get a pretty good idea of what it would be like. Apparently, People who say to god, “I don’t want to have you in my life”, god says to them, “OK, here is your wish, you can live without me, for the rest of eternity”, This would be a place full of only sin and torture and the devil and a lot of bad things. Quite a lot of bad things.
If you stopped reading here, it would sound like a very simple choice, to go with heaven, but I don’t think it is quite that simple.

Think of the whole idea of the church, to stop people from sinning. Sin is not a very good thing to do, and without it we would all live sinful lives. It also seems that a lot of very enjoyable things in life are sinful. Adultery, being proud, blasphemy and over-indulgence are all considered sins. So it also follows that if heaven is a sinless place, then there would be a lot of things that you would miss out on. Hell would be a place with all of these things still included. So a place which is sinless might not be all that much of a hoot.

Lets also consider the people who would be dwelling in these two places. In heaven you have people like
your local pastor (mine freaks me out), your mother-in-law, your neighbor, your religious ex, Hitler and Benny Hill. Also consider the fact that if somebody like me makes it into heaven, they will be pointing at me and saying, “I told you so!”
Lets consider the sort of people who you would be expecting to be in hell. Most good comedians, your atheist friends and Christopher Hitchens. I would much rather be sitting around with those guys for eternity than Benny Hill.

I will leave you with a quote from Christopher Hitchens, “By trying to adjust to the findings that it once tried so viciously to ban and repress, religion has only succeeded in restating the same questions that undermined it in earlier epochs. What kind of designer or creator is so wasteful and capricious and approximate? What kind of designer or creator is so cruel and indifferent? And—most of all—what kind of designer or creator only chooses to “reveal” himself to semi-stupefied peasants in desert regions?” Christopher Hitchens, a famous atheist and author of some note.

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.

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.