Thought of the day

You apparently don’t understand what randomness means. ‘A bias in the probability’ of something is pretty much exactly what we mean by non-random. Throwing dice is proverbially a random process. If you throw a die a thousand times, you expect to get a series of random numbers. If a particular die was biased towards, say, even numbers, it would deliver a non-random series of numbers. If natural selection is a bias in the probability of reproduction with respect to phenotype, that is equivalent to saying it is non-random. Do you really seriously not understand that?

~Richard Dawkins

So atheists can start crashing churches now?

November Edition

The November edition is here. It can be found scattered throughout the UMA campus and in the hands of anyone who wants to read something intelligent.

As seems to be par for the course, it is not without errors. The previous edition had an unfortunate number of typos. This one does not have that problem (as so far noticed), though one article (Arguing From Consequence) did have one of those weird errors where certain characters are changed to seemingly random code. It looks like it is an isolated incident only affecting a few commas, however.

On page 4 at the bottom middle is an attempt to list the email address for contacting Without Apology. It seems to have been cut off. The address is withoutapologyinmaine@gmail.com.

Enjoy this month’s edition.

Levels of Faith

By Ryan D’Alessandro

It’s really funny, the different levels of “faith” people have. During my years of religious discussions I’ve found that there are several types of Christians. From devout to merely getting a tattoo of a cross on the body, the spectrum is a wide one.

First there are the deeply devout Christians who believe the world is 10,000 years old, that a snake convinced Eve to eat an apple from a tree, that a man lived in a “big fish” for three days, that Jesus walked on water and doesn’t want homosexuals to have any rights. These are “Fundamentalist Christians” and to them their Holy Book is the Word of God. No exceptions. You follow every word, you’ll go to Heaven. You reject God just an ounce, you burn.

Next are the Moderate Christians, the ones who agree and adhere to the majority of what their preacher tells them. The moderate Christians don’t actually read the Bible on their own time; they just read what the Preacher says during his sermon. Whatever agenda the preacher chooses that Sunday is what the herd follows.

Maybe some of these Moderates don’t really want to be at Church some Sundays, but know that their co-workers or neighbors are going to be there and they don’t want to be looked down upon, so there they sit in the ever uncomfortable pews. The pastor or preacher may give out ‘homework’ assignments or reading assignments, and once these moderate Christians are finished with it, that’s all they do. They figure that’s enough for one week. They may or may not pray before bed; usually they only pray when they need something.

Then there are the “Liberal” Christians. This group tends to mold their religion into what they believe is correct. They may or may not believe in evolution, depending upon openness to evidence. In fact, they probably have never gone to church and don’t really know why they believe there is a God. They just “know” there is a heaven and a hell and don’t really care whether or not they sin, and in my travels, they all think they’re going to heaven.

I’m pretty sure these people have it wrong as far as Christianity goes, especially as compared to the other two pillars of faith.

Lastly are the Anomalous Christians, they have read the Bible cover to cover, are very intelligent, pray, believe completely in the Trinity yet still have the audacity to say certain Biblical stories are metaphors because they simply don’t make sense with the knowledge they have about science and reason. These Christians very often accept evolution and that the world is in fact billions of years old. They simply can’t see past the mountains of scientific evidence and are forced to mold Christianity to fit what makes sense. Some also understand the morally unjustifiable stances the
Bible contains, from beating one’s children to racism or any other type of bigotry.

These tend to be the most pleasant of the Christian variety, definitely the most “Christ-like” of the bunch.

These are the most prominent of the Christian flavors. But to think of it, there is only one honest option – the very first sub-division mentioned, Fundamentalist Christians. The Bible, and everything in it, is the word of God, and to deviate just one iota is to burn in hell forever. All or nothing. Moderate, Liberal or Anomalous Christians can’t cherry-pick the Bible for certain things they want to believe. The Bible doesn’t give permission to do that. Either believe the entire Bible and agree with it, or reject all of it.

If parts of the Bible seem too ridiculous to believe and are thus dismissed, then it cannot be a perfect book in the eyes of those who make this choice What makes a person think he can adjust God to fit his moral guidelines and still think he’s going to Heaven?

If the Bible is the Word of God and a man is to embrace that, there are beliefs to have and rules to follow – without exception. According to the New Testament, slavery is acceptable. We are to sell all our Earthly belongings to get the Heaven. I don’t know anyone who’s done that.

Mere humans are not allowed to flip through the pages and find ideas that make them feel good and then reject the less desirable parts. This may be news to some, but anyone who wants to get to Heaven better straighten up and follow the Word of God completely.

Or smarten up and reject Christianity as a whole. Either/or.

Secret Creationist Document Discovered

By Michael Hawkins

The following is a recently discovered creationist manifesto.

It is the objective of us, the New Creationists, to undermine not simply evolutionary theory, but science as a whole. It is this form of inquiry which has caused the greatest damage to our version of events. It must be destroyed at all costs.

The primary method for attaining our goal is Reaching a Middle Ground. This means that we are to seek, purely in the eye of the layman public, a position which appears on the surface to be a reasonable compromise. To be sure, we want to tell the world we embrace evolution. We also want to tell the world we embrace a Creator.

We want to hide Our Creator in the nearly impossible to understand gaps of reality. Quantum mechanics will often be our realm, but much more can work. As stated, our goal is Reaching a Middle Ground with the layman public. We need not answer to scientists. Indeed, they are the enemy. What we are to do is wrench the very fruits of these enemies from their empirical hands. We are to show gaps in the understanding of the cell. We are to discuss unknowns in molecular biology. We are to contort the flaws of physics, cosmology, and astronomy to assist our goals. It is in these places that Our Creator resides. If it’s science, it is imperfect. We shall exploit, even invent, imperfections. All is justified in our goal. Science deserves nothing but lip service; It is the enemy.

Our first step is to put forth an army of Christian scientists. They will not be the supporters of fringe creationism. They shall not espouse views which deny any modern science. However, they shall put atop all modern science a sense of confusion and remote possibility. That remote possibility shall be where Our Creator resides.

Our goals at this point will rely upon American idiosyncrasies. Tired of divisive politics, Americans seek a Middle Ground. They crave a sense of wishy-washy – it sounds fair. We shall marginalize the New Atheists with paint brushes of extremism. While they fully embrace science and all its evils, we shall embrace it only superficially – we shall not fall into the evil of the enemy. We shall appeal to the American sense of fair play. We are the New Creationists.

The Worst Thing About Creationism

By Michael Hawkins

To believe species to be immutable is to believe a falsehood. To believe light from billions and billions of light years away could really only be 6,000 years old is an affront to reality. To believe two of every animal could fit into an ark has no basis in truth. There is nothing but an incredible poverty in such infantile ideas. Yet creationists fully embrace them.

But of all the things about creationism, perhaps the worst is simply its lack of beauty. It teaches – nay, encourages – people to be content with a small Universe. It teaches that it is okay, even good, to look up at that deep band of stars that comprise the Milky Way and to say, “Meh. What else is there?” This is what believers in special creation are taught. They believe, most arrogantly, that there is nothing greater out there than their concept of an ever-shrinking, ever-so-tiny god.

Reason, rationality, and science encourage one to sit outside on one of those warm summer nights, pure awe undaunted by the anonymous fears lurking in the dark. They say, Look! there’s so much to be known. Don’t ever be satisfied with the Universe you know. They teach us to say, “Wow! What else is there?” They teach that it is not good but stupendously great to wonder – and it is even greater to tear that wonder asunder and leave it in shattered little pieces so to discover that, yes, there are still deeper wonders. That is the prize of knowledge. Creationism rejects this beauty.

Of course, none of this says whether one or the other is true. Reality dictates that (and reality has a strong bias toward the truths of science). What this does suggest, however, is that something so vile, empty, and ugly as creationism and petty, little humanoid gods has no place among the robust beauty of science and reason and rationality.

The Liberal Cup and Shaw's Lodging

By Michael Hawkins

There are some downright awful businesses out there. Most big box stores fall under this heading. Then there are smaller businesses like T’s Golf in Manchester. But one can only stand reading about these sort of disgraces for so long. It is far better, indeed, to read about the good places.

One such place, without any doubt, is The Liberal Cup. It has the best food, the best environment, and a great owner: the squash is amazing, the people are great, and the owner, Geoff Houghton (who, in the interest of full disclosure, is not a personal acquaintance), has an incredible business sense about him. There isn’t a thing I don’t like about the place.

The only establishment, I think, that can rival the Cup is Shaw’s. No, not that Shaw’s. This one is located in Monson and offers more than groceries.

Located in a town through which Appalachian Trail thru-hikers must pass, Shaw’s (www.shawsloding.com) is made for the hiker. After walking the 100 Mile Wilderness, I stopped here with friends. We found ourselves stuffed with the most satisfying all-you-can-eat breakfast ($7) we’ve ever had.

And the owners, my goodness. Dawn MacPherson-Allen and Susan Stevens bring an environment that is like visiting an almost overly hospitable relative. At no point can anyone feel like this is a business; Shaw’s is like a home.

The world needs more places like The Liberal Cup and Shaw’s Lodging.

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