Saturday, May 23, 2009

More from James Randi

I usually don't comment on skeptics generally, but I did find this interesting;

The Carlos hoax, in which a teen aged actor was set up by the skeptic and magician James Randi to act as a channeler receiving messages from an "ascended master" by the name of Carlos was meant to show how easily the media could be drawn into the channeling sensation. It is true that there is an amazing amount of silliness for lack of better words in the media, pseudoscience and the paranormal seem to be much more popular then true science in some cases.

Hopefully the next generation will be less credulous.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Does evolution inevitably lead to atheism? A response to a CMI article

The belief that atheism and evolution are intertwined is probably the most significant motivation behind the creationist movement. As you all know 2009 is the 150th anniversary since Darwin published his book, most would understand the cause for excitement is that in that year a theory which is now one of the founding theories in biology was first proposed. Creationists claim it is because Darwin made a theory which is held by some to make God redundant, however as far as I can tell the starting of the year 2009 caused a lot more excitement in creationist circles then evolutionist or atheist circles. One article (its also an editorial in Journal of Creation) on the CMI website would be an example of this concern.

How odd. Why is the whole world caught up this year in such euphoria over
Why haven’t the achievements of other great scientists ever captured
the global imagination—scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, James
Maxwell, Albert Einstein or Gregor Mendel?

Well this isn't entirely true, 2005 was the "World Year of Physics" in memory of Einstein's work on general relativity. General relativity has had a large impact on the field of physics so it is simply natural that the 100 year anniversary of Einstein publishing his theory was commemorated.

It is the same with Darwin, he made many contributions to biology which greatly improved our understanding of how organisms relate to each other. Darwin's theory also helped us realize who we are exactly and where we fit in the ecosystem, it led to the modern understanding of the human race. Although it is true that atheistic organizations also celebrate it because it replaced God as the direct creator it is mostly about Darwin's contributions to science.

Because Darwin 2009 is not about science. Look at who’s cheering.
International Humanists Union honour Darwin because evolution, in their words,
‘made creator deities redundant’. Note, evolution made the Creator redundant.
Sir Julian Huxley gloated, ‘Darwinism removed the whole idea of God as the
creator of organisms from the sphere of rational discussion.' Underline,
Darwin removed God.
Atheist extraordinaire, Richard Dawkins said, ‘ … Darwin
made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.’ Observe, Darwin
justifies atheism.

As I mentioned earlier, of course atheists and secular humanists are going to remember Darwin for the ideological extrapolations which his theory led to. It should be noted that yes while evolution makes it possible to not believe in God, it does not make it impossible to believe in God. God could still be the creator of the universe besides the fact that he used evolution to create life. Evolution does not automatically imply God doesn't exist anymore then the theory of gravity does, since gravity draws objects together in space rather then God directly pushing them together.

The author continues, stating supposed evidence for intelligent design and creation and concluding that this year is an opportunity to spread the creation message, this is discussed in other articles and by other sources.

Now while it does not matter if the celebration of Darwin does have to do with Atheism, it does matter that it leads many to believe that evolution rules out God. Creationists think that by fighting evolution they are helping to restore and strengthen the faith of Christians as well as the over all respectability of Christianity. In reality they are helping to destroy Christianity by making the church look backwards, which has an adverse affect on the number of Christians leaving the chuch. At the same time atheists are not facilitating the debates end either; by promoting evolution as inherently anti-theistic they are only giving the creationists more incentive to fight the evolutionary theory, thus prolonging the controversy. What needs to be done is to focus on the motivation for the creationist denial of evolution; if we theistic evolutionists show both creationists and atheists that evolution is compatible with belief in God then the controversy will end soon thereafter.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Second post of the year (pathetic I know)

I don't have much time so this post will be short; I decided to make a post before the close of the month to keep making one post per month at least. I have been rather slothful I'll admit and I intend to fix it eventually, but not tonight; I will try to post another article of meaning tomorrow. For now to keep my readers (assuming there are any left) entertained; I found a rather interesting video series debunking and young earth creation astronomy. I agree with very little he says in regards to theology, but he does a great job with the science.

Creation Astronomy Propaganda Debunked 1

Creation Astronomy Propaganda Debunked 2

Creation Astronomy Propaganda Debunked 3

Creation Astronomy Propaganda Debunked 4

Creation Astronomy Propaganda Debunked 5

Creation Astronomy Propaganda Debunked 6

Enjoy: (note that due to the haste in which I put it together I might have made a few errors in the linking).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Skepticism and the church

Skepticism is a powerful tool; it is one of the essential tools of science, in fact Carl Sagan called science a marriage of skepticism and wonder.

The hard thing about skepticism is that in order to be a true skeptic, one must question the validity of all ideas even those which are cherished. Every assertion must be supported by a degree of evidence whether this evidence is forensic, experimental, or observational. accepting an idea or claim at face value without investigating its reliability can cost you money or even a person's life (as in the case of quack medical cures). Now this isn't an essay on why one needs to be skeptical; there are several books which encourage skepticism, or the compatibility between religion and a skeptical worldview. The purpose of this post is to discuss the need for skepticism in one particular social institution: the church.

I consider myself an evangelical Christian, however this does not keep me from saying that credulity runs deep in many Evangelical christian circles. Now this gullibility isn't universal, many Evangelical churches encourage their members to read the bible to compare what the bible says with what the pastor says. Churches like these encourage their congregations to think for themselves deciding what the bible actually says; not what the past claims the bible says. This kind of skepticism is great concerning doctrinal issues which have an affect on a churchgoers daily life such as tithing or prophecy. If a pastor says the the world is going to end next Tuesday, the congregation has no obligation to believe him since Jesus said you will know neither the day nor the hour of my coming (Matthew 24:36) which renders any attempt to make an end times cult foiled. People are also encouraged to ask questions concerning the bible, in many but not all churches, a person in a strongly dispensationalist (believing in the the rapture followed by a seven year tribulation and Christs second coming) church can be an open preterist (the belief that Christ already came somewhere around 70 A.D. and that we are not living in the millennial reign of Christ); they simply cannot be ushers, assistant pastors, deacons etc.

But the problem is that while the church is very skeptical, even intolerant of things which are not considered biblical (channeling crystals, astrology, alien abductions etc.) many evangelicals are very gullible when it comes to things the bible doesn't rule out. This would include instance involving faith-healings, sightings of angels, demonic possession, encounters with Jesus, and witchcraft. Many stories with such elements are rarely checked, and the reason is quite obvious; they are biased towards these events so they tend to be less doubtful of them. I am not denying that I think any of these events happen. I would be more likely to believe a story about a missionary being saved from headhunters by an angel, and would be more inclined to attribute a New Age gurus contact with an ascended master to hallucinations, sleep paralysis, or fabrication. Since I think such events occur and I want them to occur; I wouldn't mind God sending angels to protect me, or Jesus meeting me on the road and since I believe God exists for reasons which are beyond the scope of this article I find an encounter with an angel more plausible then a power Juju. We all have biases and other religious people would react the same way, but we must put our biases aside and question the truth of these tails whether or not they align with our religious beliefs.

Now what am I asking? I am asking Christians to be just a little more skeptical about certain topics, such as things the bible does not rule out. Christians and religious believers in general are known for gullibility, however Christians shouldn't be, the bible tells us to be skeptical (2 Thessalonians 5:21) and to test all things, using reason to attain truth. One area where skepticism would be a great advantage is faith-healing. Being a Christian I do believe in faith-healing and that one day there might be a true faith healer, but most current faith-healers appear to be charlatans taking advantage of the gullible. Most diseases they supposedly cure are psychogenic illnesses or even outright fabrications. Faith healers have gained a reputation for dishonesty in our modern age.

A little skepticism might be as simple as asking the faith healer to heal someone of Down's syndrome or another largely incurable disease; or document how the faith healer's prayers affected the person's illness, noting also how illness was affected by the prayers. Also compare what the faith healer says concerning theology with biblical theology, if he is really sent by God then his words should agree with what the bible teaches. Another important thing is to scrutinize his behavior; assuming Christianity is true, those who are endowed with the holy spirit should act accordingly (showing love, kindness, generosity, self-control, altruism, humility etc.).

Such methods can apply to other topics such as self-proclaimed prophets or those who claim to be the second coming of Christ.

Stories involving encounters with supernatural beings should be treated with the same type of skepticism, here are some guidelines;
--Ask if there were any other witnesses, and if possible try to interview them to hear their side of the story.
--consider alternatives (were they hallucinating, were they mistaken, were they lying)
--make sure all the elements of the story are not contradictory and that all the witnesses give relatively the same story.

Now you may ask why go through all the trouble of investigating such stories? The reason is quite sober; many people live out their lives on the assumption that those stories are true. If they are not true, then the believers in these tails are living a lie; if you are living based off a false premise, you will have a distorted view of reality which could lead you to make bad decisions and even put your life or the lives of others in danger. From both a biblical and from a secular perspective skepticism can save a man's soul.