"I can sum it up in three words: 'Evolution is a lie.'"

>> Saturday, April 18, 2009

Boing Boing turned me on to one of the funniest YouTube videos I've seen in a while: dramatic readings of what are allegedly (and sadly, plausibly) actual, genuine anti-atheist and anti-science comments on Christian fundamentalist forums.

I'm not sure comics could write this. Well. Maybe the State/Reno 911 gang. Maybe.

"If Atheists Ruled The World":


Leanright,  Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 3:17:00 AM EDT  

Genuinely nice way to lump all Christians into morons without rational thought.


(Not you Eric....Something tells me you might be willing to listen to a cohesive argument)

Eric Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 8:26:00 AM EDT  

Now, LR, I don't see them lumping all Christians into any kind of group. They've selected some choice stupid comments made in public by people who aren't particularly bright in defense of specific ideas that aren't tenable.

And I'm sorry, but Christian Fundamentalism, as opposed to Christianity in general, is fairly stupid--and I'm afraid I have to say it's a stupid idea held by some otherwise-intelligent friends of mine (remember, I live in a city that's sometimes been called the "buckle" of the Bible Belt). To believe that a book that's clearly been translated, edited and revised (with a historical record of many of those changes) is inerrant despite internal inconsistencies and variations between translations and even differences between sects over what constitutes canon--to believe in inerrancy is simply foolish and ill-informed. Further, to believe such things as the world is 6,000 years old, dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans, and other canards of the fundamentalist literalists is to close one's eyes and clap one's hands over his ears and scream "NA-NA-NA-NA" like a petulant preschooler in the face of contrary evidence from every single field of scientific inquiry.

This doesn't say anything about whether God exists, created the universe (by establish well-known physical, biological and chemical principles billions of years ago), or even about whether he so loved the world that he sent His only Son to die for man's salvation. To believe that Genesis offers some kind of metaphor or fable for what God really did--apparently He caused a Big Bang--and then roughly fourteen billion years later, He sent Jesus into the world is to hold religious beliefs consistent with what the universe (or God if you're so inclined) tells us about itself (or Himself). On the other hand, the implication that DNA must be some kind of bizarre hoax upon a credulous public because acid would make everyone dissolve: that's stupid beyond words. But not beyond braying laughter, I'm afraid I can attest from my own response to the video.

By the way, LR, you're welcome to call me a "pompous fucking atheist" if you'd like. Scarcely the worst thing I've ever been dubbed. Also, I have a pretty thick skin to that sort of thing.

Janiece Murphy Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 10:31:00 AM EDT  

I saw this over at Friendly Atheist and laughed my ass off.

Eric, you made me laugh when you accused the YECers of sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting "NA-NA-NA-NA!" Because that is the exact analogy I used when discussing this issue with my cousin a couple weeks ago, except my YECer said "LALALALA!"

I guess pompous fucking atheists/agnostics think alike. Hehe.

Leanright,  Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 1:20:00 PM EDT  

I've always been of the mindset that my Christian beliefs are my faith, and that Atheism is also a Faith. I believe that just because you cannot see nor touch something does not mean it exists.
I've never seen Mars, the Great Wall of China, nor heard and intelligent thing come out of the mouth of Keith Olberman, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

As I believe that I will actually spend more time on the other side of my death, I have faith that there are greater things to experience. I do believe that the bible may have used metaphors to explain things to simple people back then; 6000 years may be a metaphor for the positioning of the moon or the sun. Since the Jude-Christian calendar goes back 2000 years to the birth of Christ, what was considered a "year" before that? We know that months were added by Julius and Augustus Caesar to celebrate themselves, perhaps changes were from a much longer calendar prior to that.

Do I believe in evolution? Not sure, and to this day, it's still called the "Theory" of evolution. Sounds interesting, but proof? Don't always buy it. I do believe that there is a higher power, and that somehow, someway we ended up here. What about time? The big bang theory starting it all? Sure, but what was there before that, What was the beginning before the beginning, and what will be the end after the end? Is it possible as humans that there is something so massive and powerful that we don't understand it? Something like trying to explain the internet to an ant?

And Eric, I don't find you pompous, because I don't believe you "insult" Christians, you merely question them. I'm okay with that.

Eric Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 4:06:00 PM EDT  

The assertion that atheism is a faith is always irritating: because I have no satisfactory evidence for something and therefore remain unconvinced it exists, I therefore "have faith" there is no deity? Sorry, don't think so. And saying it over and over again doesn't make it so; there are any number of theists who, for whatever reason, find it more comforting to believe "everybody believes in something, even if it's nothing," then to acknowledge that there are people who don't believe any of the claims that have been made for the existence of gods.

I don't have faith, LR, I have an unsatisfied demand for satisfactory proof weighed against conspicuous evidence that human beings are storytellers, are frequently irrational, and possess neurological quirks (e.g. a tendency to notice patterns where none exist).

As for the word "theory," LR: in scientific usage, the word "theory" is used to describe any comprehensive model that successfully explains observed phenomena. Per your colloquial usage, you should probably be troubled by the money wasted by the government on nuclear weapons programs and public sanitation, based on The Atomic Theory Of Matter and The Germ Theory Of Disease, respectively. (As you might be aware, nuclear weapons don't merely depend on the just-a-theory that items like uranium spheres are made of subcomponents called "atoms," but also on the just-a-theory that there's an equivalence between mass and energy, a predicted consequence of the Special Theory Of Relativity).

The unfortunate-and-inevitable consequence of the semantic "well it's just a 'theory'" game is something that no creationist ever seems to follow through on--very few of them seem likely to give up on antibiotics, sewage treatment, for instance. Probably because creationists who make the semantic argument--and sorry to sound pompous, but there's no other way to put this--lack the scientific literacy or sophistication to understand what "theory" as a term-of-art means.

If I persuade you of nothing else, LR, please allow me to persuade you to take "just a theory" out of your quiver: it only makes you appear ignorant.

Leanright,  Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 9:38:00 PM EDT  

Well, that's because I'm a Conservative, and a Christian. That must mean that I am ignorant.

Thank you for YOUR theory.

Random Michelle K Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 10:14:00 PM EDT  

Eric, just a reminder that there are plenty of Christians in the world who are, in fact, scientists and actually understand evolution.

Leanright, you're being a jerk.

In science we call things theories because we aren't arrogant enough to believe that we know all there is to know.

You can rail against the theory of gravity, but it's not going to allow you to fly by flapping your arms and more than claiming the "theory" of evolution means that creation in six days and dinosaurs and Eve hanging out in Eden are the way it was six thousand years ago.

As I've said previously, a god stuck who dinosaur bones in the ground just to fuck with his followers isn't any kind of god I would want to believe in. That is not good and that is not just.

If God created us, then he created us with brains and logic and the ability to use the scientific method, not with a desire for us to blindly follow fools simply because they have gathered temporal power.

1 For all this I laid to my heart, even to explore all this: that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God; whether it be love or hatred, man knoweth it not; all is before them.

2 All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth and to him that sacrificeth not; as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea also, the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 For to him that is joined with all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 As well their love, as their hatred and their envy, is perished long ago; neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun.

7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God hath already accepted thy works. 8 Let thy garments be always white; and let not thy head lack oil. 9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of thy life of vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all thy days of vanity: for that is thy portion in life, and in thy labor wherein thou laborest under the sun.

10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol, whither thou goest.

11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. 12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

13 I have also seen wisdom under the sun on this wise, and it seemed great unto me: 14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. 16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. 17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroyeth much good.

Eric Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 11:01:00 PM EDT  

Thank you, Michelle.

I have been extremely careful, I hope, to distinguish Christian fundamentalists as being the fools (a distinction LR has apparently chosen to miss). The Roman Catholic church has generally embraced science. Most Protestant denominations have generally embraced science. There are, as you say many scientists who are practicing Christians. It is indeed a relatively small subset of Christians who maintain foolishness like the literal reading of Genesis and a denial of the copious evidence in astronomy, physics, geology and biology for an old and evolving universe.

While I think S.J. Gould's "separate magisteria" argument is a bit facile in some respects and reflects wishful thinking in others, I feel like I should say once again: science has little or nothing to say about the existence of a deity, except perhaps to say it can't prove a deity's existence or non-existence one way or another. The fact that Christianity, for instance, and science share little common territory means that there is no clear reason a Christian can't be a scientist or a scientist must not be religious.

For that matter--and perhaps I should devote a blog entry to this sometime--my own atheism has absolutely nothing to do with my interest in science whatsoever. My atheism is the product of my interests in history and literature (specifically, myth); science doesn't enter into it, nor should it, beyond the extent to which science refutes certain physical claims made by various religions (i.e. science can say nothing about God's existence or qualities, but can indeed say something about the age of a rock or why people get sick; religious claims of the former nature are largely immune to scientific scrutiny while claims of the latter nature might rightly face challenges).

LR is choosing to take offense, I suspect, because he wants to be offended for some reason.

Random Michelle K Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 11:49:00 PM EDT  

I quite liked Gould's "Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life" and think it does a good job of presenting how religion and science are compatible with each other, rather than in opposition as extremists in the camps of both atheism and Christianity seem to insist.

The book wasn't written to convince atheists of the existence of god, as much as it was to say, "Hey! Stop lumping the majority of religious individuals in with the wackos!"

And we've discussed this previously--I don't think mythology and faith are at all at odds.

If--as many Christians do--one can accept the bible as a religious book with all it's inherent contradictions--then it is functioning as myth--not in the negative connotation of myth as a lie, but in the connotation of stories told to teach lessons and make us think.

It's why I'm not an atheist, although I am in no way a Christian any longer: Science and faith are not in contradiction, nor does should they be. They have separate spheres of dominance, and although they influence each other, they aren't talking about the same things. (Well, I think there is some overlap with the field of ethics, but that's another debate all together.)

Eric Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 11:57:00 PM EDT  

Briefly (low on laptop power at the moment): Gould is right to a large extent, at least insofar as science and religion are not answering the same questions. However, I think Gould's notion that science and religion occupy separate magisteria (areas or realms) runs into trouble to the extent that religion and science may demand competing approaches to the world, one based on acceptance (belief in teaching and tradition) and one based on constant questioning (a never-ending effort to test hypotheses against evidence).

On the other hand, promoting atheism as a one-size-fits-all solution for all people is not a project I'm interested in at this point--that is, I'm not here to "convert" anyone (or, more accurately, to drive anyone from their faith). I honestly have no problem with anyone who wants to believe in a god doing so. To paraphrase Jefferson, it doesn't pick my pocket or break my leg, so why should it bother me so long as it continues not to injure me.

Random Michelle K Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 12:49:00 AM EDT  

I think Gould's notion that science and religion occupy separate magisteria (areas or realms) runs into trouble to the extent that religion and science may demand competing approaches to the world, one based on acceptance (belief in teaching and tradition) and one based on constant questioning (a never-ending effort to test hypotheses against evidence).I think this is where we part ways. I was raised Catholic and taught to question things (lets say my mother has very different views than the pope on many things) but more importantly, Stephen Jay Gould came from a Jewish family, not a Christian family, and the Jewish tradition has often had a great emphasis on questioning things and interpreting and reinterpreting the Torah. (Perhaps the Jesuits hold a similar place in Catholicism.)

And I think the term you were dancing around was obedience. In some ways religion desires obedience, but to me that has always been in the manner of laws and ethics--things to keep the world functioning smoothly, rather than forcing one to a certain belief system.

As I said, there is an overlap between science and religion in the field of ethics, but then ethics is really more philosophy than science, IMO.

Eric Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 7:07:00 AM EDT  

Those are fair points, Michelle, and what I get for trying to write fast with my machine on the verge of shutting down. (Indeed, it shut itself down while I was trying to re-read what I wrote.)

Where Gould was right, I suppose I should say, is that science cannot explain why we're here or what you're supposed to do with your life, or what it means to be good. Those are matters for religion, ethics or philosophy. The thing is, though, that religion developed as a comprehensive theory-of-everything. Religions inform us about what we're supposed to do with ourselves now that we're here, but it tends to do that by accepting undemonstable postulates and/or narratives that may fail when tested by science (or, for that matter, by historians and others applying strenuous intellectual tests--including theologians, who sometimes make for the least-religious people you can find, say, on a college campus).

Anyway, you're absolutely right, Michelle, that my comments about obedience were poorly chosen: there are questioning religious traditions, Judaism and Jesuit Catholicism being good examples.

Eric Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 7:14:00 AM EDT  


And there I am with poor choices of words, again, but I don't feel like deleting and re-writing.

Specifically, "strenuous intellectual tests." I probably should have stopped with "academic" but was looking for a counterpart term that didn't imply educational environments. Also, "rigorous" was the word I was looking for. I want to be clear, because of LR's earlier misunderstanding, that the comments about "intellectual" rigor aren't to imply anyone is stupid--rather I was attempting (and failing) to say that there are religious claims that fail when subjected to logic, critical thinking, or application of facts--the kinds of things associated with what's usually considered an "intellectual" approach as opposed to an approach based on faith or obedience.

Did I just make that better or worse?

Random Michelle K Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 2:56:00 PM EDT  

but it tends to do that by accepting undemonstable postulates and/or narratives that may fail when tested by science.
I think that sentence needs more qualifiers" "it sometimes tends to do that"

I'm going to stick with Catholicism here, because that's the faith in which I was raised. If you look at the history of Catholicism, I think that the church is very much guided and lead by the personality of the pope.

Pope John XXIII was a reformer, and so the church under his lead was far more open than the Catholic church of his predecessors. John Paul I was probably going to be another reformer, however his early death didn't allow us to see where he would have taken the church.

Other churches (the Anglican church comes to mind) are the same way, guiding their parishioners (sometimes kicking and screaming) through change.

So again, although some parts of some faiths are to be taken as just that--on faith--where religion is at it's strongest and does its best work is not talking about abortion or stem cells or gay rights, but saying that God expects humanity to care for the poor and those less fortunate than ourselves.

Yes, there are a lot of Christians (and those of other faiths as well) that miss that point. But religion does it's best work when it tells us how to treat others, not how science works or the history of the world.

If you look back through history, I think that when the Catholic Church comes up against science, science eventually wins. It might not be immediate, but science does win out.

I think I went astray from my original point, but what the hell? :)

Leanright,  Monday, April 20, 2009 at 2:05:00 AM EDT  

Okay...I was a tad sensitive. I am sorry, but I do feel, Eric, that you glossed over some of my points of my second post. I am actually not a Christian Fundamentalist, and my bad for for feeling as if you were pegging me as such. I'm not a backwoods redneck bible-thumper. I do believe in the Gospel but I am not so misguided as to feel that the Earth is only 6000 years old, or that our ancestors hung out with dinosaurs.

I do believe people evolve, but I don't necessarily believe we came from the same primates which share the world with us now. I attend church weekly at the very same congregation led by Rick Warren who spoke at the inauguration. At no time has our church discussed the age of the earth, dinosaurs, nor any types of monkeys. What we discuss primarily is that should we choose to live a Christian life, then to BE like Jesus by assisting those who cannot help themselves, to work towards the eradication of disease, helping the poor, standing against tyrants, educating the next generation. If you take any time to read about Rick's peace plan, I actually believe you would find it to be a great plan, Christian or not. The missions our church goes on does not include simply praying in front of groups of hungry people and boarding a plane, then going home. There is involvement in how to teach, for example, the citizens of Rwanda other effective ways to sustain life through better medical care, how to effectively transport water from one place to another, planting, education, etc...Most anyone could get behind what our church does.

So, I guess I am more of a Christian of this generation. I don't believe in being holed up in a Christian compound with nothing but guards and bibles. Our religion, should I say, has "evolved" to what we believe Jesus REALLY wanted his followers to do.

Michelle, sorry you think I was being a "jerk".

I know I've gone off topic somewhat, but I really wanted to share with you a different take than what those children in the video were attempting to portray. Yes, I suppose there are some fundamentalists attempting to live in by an archaic version of Christianity. That version is full of inaction. When we decided to do what Jesus was trying to teach us, then we've become more effective.


Leanright,  Monday, April 20, 2009 at 2:09:00 AM EDT  

Please forgive the grammatical errors.

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