Archive for May, 2009

Christian Apologetics

Sun May 31, 2009 2:58 pm by TheYoungAndRestless

Normal people are annoyed by Christian apologetics, a fact which in having never been acknowledged by Christian apologetics, more or less proves the point.

I wonder why.

  • Is it that Christian apologists don’t realize that saying something differently is not different from saying something twice?
  • Is it that Christian apologetics is apparently one of the few fields in which excellence is in no way correlated to competence?
  • Is it that Christian apologetics seems entrepreneurial?
  • Is it that Christian apologists are soporific on their best days?
  • Is it that Christian apologetics seems more about theatrical competitiveness?
  • Is it that Christian apologists demonize what they don’t understand?
  • Is it that Christian apologetics seems to cavalierly borrow definitions from every important field of scholarship and then redefine them into uselessness?
  • Is it that Christian apologists seem transparently unpleasantly solicitous?
  • Is it that Christian apologetics seems to attract repugnant human beings with bizarre attitudes towards taxation?
  • Or is is that Christian apologists in an effort to make Christianity seem simple make it look simpleminded?

The answer is, of course, yes.

But, I think that the essential frustration that is Christian apologetics is a foolish and impatient insistence on the primacy of belief in the existence of God, the historicity of the Resurrection, and the belief in Biblical literalism, a triptych which only Christian apologists accept wholesale and even most Christians have difficulty swallowing entirely.

I will concede, of course, Christians should ultimately take comfort from the Resurrection, or, at least, a sense that the overcoming of death affords the life everlasting, and Christians should look to the Good Book as the written back bone of the religion and belief that that book is special among other books, although I doubt that that is literalism.

And I can accept that behind most Christian beliefs, God is a necessary prior condition and that belief in God is, in this sense, theologically proper, but “belief,” as most people use it, is different from the charismatic, Earth-shaking, life-altering, problem-solving “belief” that Christian apologists will pity you for not having.

God, the Resurrection, and the Bible form a sort of self-reinforcing argument around the proper Christian, with historical method, extra-Biblical research, and philosophy floating off in the distance, to be tapped if necessary.

With God, the Resurrection, and the Bible firmly believed, a sort of trickle down effect occurs and things like charity and forgiveness come on-line. Church attendance, a prayer life, family life, and vocation follow.

I criticize this because, from everything that I can tell about God and how Christians, as his children, should in themselves be, belief or faith in God is only properly meaningful when adjoined to other otherwise good activities of mind or body and sometimes is even subordinated.

A Christian who cannot argue that love is good without mentioning God cannot argue that love is good.

It is an irony of theology that Jesus, who preferred to teach in the non-literal, would be followed by the literal and unimaginative.

And the Resurrection, I think, reveals its own series of problems of historicity, which, while are lessened by faith, are not alleviated entirely by faith and we are left with something that is as meaningful as an historical fact as it is meaningful as a metaphor.

I propose, therefore, an inversion of the Christian apologetic method, one that reflects the difficulty people have in accepting those three crowns of theology and, I think, even anticipates that while most Christians disagree about the method of Biblical interpretation, for example, few Christians argue over the importance of love.

God, I think, would be happy if we practiced the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

There is no law against them and surely no God would be pleased by a systemic apologetic that includes them as a mere footnote. And the lessons of the Sermon on the Plain are themselves challenges and we need apologists to help us make sense of them and guide us through them and not ignore them.

As I write this, I wonder what God thought when David danced before Him with all his might? Was He pleased by the dance? Or the might?

Thomas Merton said: “The fact that I think that I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does, in fact, please You.”

And surely even if one does not believe in God, the fact that one desires to pleases God. And, then, even if one doesn’t have that explicit desire, the fact that one desires truth and goodness, must also please God.

God asks for belief without seeing (John 20:29). Surely God is not the lesser when the faithless sing, in their way, hallelujah.

The Argument From Design Is Pretty Bad

Th1sWasATriumph
Th1sWasATriumph
Fri May 29, 2009 9:35 am by Th1sWasATriumph

You’ve probably come across this one a lot. Variations on the theme of “Everything is really super complex\the universe is obviously custom made for our please\life is designed, it couldn’t have happened by chance ERGO GOD” crop up all the time.

When you think about it, it’s pretty disgusting. It reveals a shallowness of intellect and reasoning that’s staggering.

The evolution of the eye is the most oft-quoted piece of “evidence” for intelligent design. “Look at this thing,” they’ll bluster, spit rolling down their chins. “Look at it! It’s really super complex! How could it possible have happened by chance? It’s perfect! Can you lend me a nickel?”

Ignoring the fact that the eye’s evolution has been pretty well covered by a number of people, the eye is NOT perfect. Not by any means. It is our most important sensory apparatus, far more so than hearing or smell, and yet this apparently God-patented design can be rendered inoperative by simply poking at it a bit too hard.

The eye manages to be one of the most important and most fragile parts of our body at the same time. Get a piece of grit in it and you’ve pretty much lost the rest of your day. Expose it to minimal pressure and it’s gone. A lot of people don’t even have eyes that work properly in the first place; I wear contacts to correct the flaw that God must have deliberately inflicted on me.

How could anyone look at the eye and think it could be designed? How hard would it have been for God to cover it in a thick protective layer instead of leaving it moist and vulnerable to the world? If people are going to appropriate natural evolution as proof for intelligent design, they MUST take into account all the flaws and room for improvement. Except they don’t, of course. The standard response is something like “Everything was perfect until SIN (even though God knew it was going to happen and could have stopped it and therefore we should be absolved of all responsibility but shut up SHUT UP don’t tell anyone) and then everything started to degrade.”

It’s pretty bad.

Worse still are the tactics used to support this “evidence”. Probably the most famous quote mine of all is the one that seems to have Darwin saying “I freely admit that the eye happening by itself seems impossible” (to paraphrase.) This quote is launched by IDists the world over. However, the full quote doesn’t end there; Darwin goes on to say “oh wait, I was trolling. It’s entirely possible in small steps. See how I talk in detail for a few pages.”

To quote mine in this way, the miner MUST have read it in context and then decided which bit best supported his cause. This tactic goes beyond cunning, sly and underhand – it enters the realm of reprehensible duplicity. It’s really not cricket. And yet this tactic attends creationist arguments constantly; misquotes from Einstein, Hawking and even Dawkins pepper the creationist world.

Sensible people can see this as simply more proof for the shaky foundations of intelligent design, but it’s still pretty annoying.

Why Europa Is Awesome

Th1sWasATriumph
Th1sWasATriumph
Sat May 23, 2009 12:04 pm by Th1sWasATriumph

Here’s why, although most of you probably already knew.

It’s something that excited me ever since I first found out about it and began revolving it through my brains. Despite chances rising for life on Mars, Europa remains a more mysterious and potentially fruitful location. An icy Jovian moon, Europa is believed to possess a sub-surface ocean beneath a crust of ice, kept warm and fluid by tidal heat.

So . . . complete darkness, high pressure, possibly considerable heat, potential toxicity. It doesn’t sound altogether promising.

Except life fluorishes on Earth in environments at least as harsh and alien as those existing in the chilly reaches of space. Where? Oh god, where? Are we safe? Where do these barren tracts lie?

Mainly, in the sea. The deepest part of our ocean is nearly 11,000 metres, and life exists at the bottom of it. Life exists around deep sea vents, in extremes of pressure, heat and toxicity that would do credit to the kind of planet hitherto only seen in 70s adventure shows. This life has no need of light, favours heat and pressure with a jaunty smirk, and eats chemicals. In short, it’s just . . . different.

Why is this significant? Well, we no longer have to find soft, human-friendly worlds in order to hunt for extraterrestial life. If life can exist under nearly 7 miles of water, or not only survive but thrive on hot, chemical-rich environments, the vista of possibility is far wider. All we need is a place with chemicals and water and heat that’s had some time to stew, and even in our own solar system there’s more than a few possibilities: Mars, Europa, Titan, Enceladus, even Ceres.

Unless something unexpected happens, probes will reach Europa within my lifetime; although actually getting under the surface will be a bit tricksy.

NOTE: None of this is new information and I’m not trying to sound smart by going on about it.

False flagging.

nonstampcollector
nonstampcollector
Fri May 22, 2009 5:19 am by nonstampcollector

Hi everyone,
I don’t have much to say about this other than until it gets sorted, I’m really disinclined to post any more vids on youtube. Fucked if I’m going to go to all that effort when just a few pussies can click a few buttons and have the video, or my whole channel, taken down.
I can only encourage people to follow the advice that DonExodus2 lays out in his new video “Recent Events” (check his channel page – or mine, I’ve got it mirrored in my feature spot). Youtube aren’t going to give a shit about this until they get pressure from outside.

Remember – let’s not be deluded into thinking that WE are youtube’s customers. We are NOT. We are youtube’s PRODUCT. We are the audience that they sell to their true customers, the ADVERTISERS. And really – they couldn’t give a shit if we all leave.
But perhaps they WILL give a shit when they get pressure from organisations such as the BBB, as DonExodus2 is suggesting as a course of action.

Anyway, as someone who as put a fair bit of effort into this whole youtube thing, and has thankfully NOT been falsely flagged yet, I really encourage the community to find ways to make youtube WANT or NEED to act on these issues.

YouTube flagging gets out of hand

djarm67
djarm67
Thu May 21, 2009 4:58 pm by djarm67

In a disgraceful example of not understanding how to interpret their own guidelines, YouTube has suspended dprjones without proper cause. dprjones was an awesome YouTuber and his voice will be missed there. His public dismantling of the PCS situation was awesome to watch. This is a sad day for him, us and YouTube itself. Pathetic flagging campaigns need to be met with a correct interpretation and screening processes by YouTube. On a positive note, dpr is a member of the “League Of Reason” and will be able to continue his activities here and on his filmrookie.com channel.
dprjones assisted Thunderf00t in his DMCA battle with PCS and also assisted me when I was the recipient of a dishonest DMCA claim against a creationism debunking series. His activities to combat votebotting and flagging campaigns are legendary. In keeping with the “War on ignorance” theme, I put this little piece together as a tribute to a fallen comrade.

Downfall of dprjones

Hopefully, YouTube will see the error of it’s ways. If it fails to prevent these situations arising and continues to allow censorship to become a valid form of argument, it will fade into obscurity due to a lack of relevancy.

DJ

Nanotechnology wins again!

AndromedasWake
AndromedasWake
Thu May 21, 2009 1:07 pm by AndromedasWake

Greeings from Denmark Leaguers! Just stopping by to post a bit of research that’s generating a buzz today. A team at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia have developed a technique for squeezing a potential 10 terabytes (!) of storage out of a DVD without compromising the size of the disc. This involves adding two additional “dimensions” to the format, namely colour and polarisation. These aren’t spatial or time-like dimensions – there is thus far no concrete evidence that our universe has any more than 4 dimensions – but rather two properties that can be exploited using nanomaterials. Firstly, these next generation discs would be able to respond to multiple wavelengths of light, as opposed to current discs which are monochromatic. This adds a range of colour values that can be manipulated within the same physical space on the disc, thus adding another dimension. Polarisation of the materials on the disc allows another possible range of information in the same space by altering the angle of the surface materials. By using materials that can adopt a range of angles, it is possible to influence them by polarising the light in the laser (setting the orientation of the electric field). I for one completely support this fresh way of thinking (as opposed to more stale attempts to increase data density, such as Blu-Ray) and I’m pleased to see that Samsung are now on board with this project. Apparently, we’ll see them being made commercially available in 5-10 years. I haven’t had a chance to read the paper yet, published in this month’s edition of Nature, but if you have access to the Journal, you can read it here. If not, you can always read the abstract!

I also would just like to say welcome to our newest bloggers, JRChadwick and SchrodingersFinch!

Life Could Easily Have Survived Meteor Bombardment 3.9 Billion Years Ago

Th1sWasATriumph
Th1sWasATriumph
Thu May 21, 2009 9:17 am by Th1sWasATriumph

One of the more annoying battle cries of creationists, or indeed anyone who seeks to disprove the workability of the abiogenesis model, is “But 3.9 billion years ago all life would have been wiped out by an epic meteor bombardment NOT LEAVING ENOUGH TIME FOR US TO EVOLVE TO THE STATE WE ARE NOW THEREFORE GOD DID IT.”

Now, from my perspective a meteor bombardment would have had to be sustained and concentrated enough to vaporise the seas and turn the entire surface of the earth to molten slag before you could make an assertion like “All life would have died.” We’re not even talking life as we know it, just single or maybe multi-celled organisms – organisms which are numerous, resiliant and extremely quick to reproduce. If only one was left alive, life would have continued.

So it’s nice to see my untutored assumptions backed up by science. A study from the University of Colorado shows that life could easily have survived the bombardment, thus potentially increasing the age of life on earth by several hundreds of millions of years.

And if life can survive a meteor strike of such intensity, it could have survived it on other planets as well. I’m waiting with impatience for news of Mars.

Introducing SchrodingersFinch

SchrodingersFinch
SchrodingersFinch
Wed May 20, 2009 3:37 pm by SchrodingersFinch

Greetings members of The League,

I’m SchrodingersFinch, but you can just call me Finch.

I come from a world you may not understand, or more specifically, Finland. Finland is the second greatest place on Earth. In Finland women are beautiful, men alcoholics and evolution a fact. Ironically, Finland is one of the most secular countries in the world but we also have a state church. Everyone who reads the Bible, as I’m sure you all do, should know that 21st century Finnish Evangelical Lutheranism is the one true Christian faith (don’t listen to the Swedish spawn of Satan!).

We Finns are a peculiar lot. We’re shy and don’t talk much, but when we do it’s usually something important. I hope this is also the case with blogging (or at least the latter part), but I can’t promise you anything. Writing a blog is something completely new to me, so please bear with me until I get the hang of it.

I feel honoured to be a part of this blog. As you can see, there are some big names and lots of talent involved. I only hope I can match up. When it comes to writing skills I’m definitely not the best since English isn’t even my first language. But I guarantee I will never confuse the word “their” with “they’re” or “your” with “you’re”.

Here are some relevant facts about me. I’m an atheist (gasp!), but more of the moderate kind. I am, however, strongly against creationism and other such nonsense, although I rarely encounter them in real life. I am also a science geek and proud of it! My main interests are physics and biology, but I also enjoy mathematics, chemistry and all the innumerable varieties that exist. As most of you probably know, I’m a moderator on the League of Reason forums and you can also find me on Youtube. Feel free to PM me if you have anything to say or ask. I usually have time to respond to all of them.

Hopefully I’ll have something more interesting to write about soon. If I had a cool catch phrase like all the big Youtubers this would perhaps be a good place to put it.

SchrodingersFinch

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