Thought of the day

I couldn’t imagine being happy believing in something for which there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever. What an empty, empty feeling.

Thought of the year

There still isn’t any evidence for God.

Thought of the day

“I do not believe in X”

is equal to

“I have not been presented persuasive evidence for X.”

Thought of the day

It isn’t merely that theists have no evidence for their particular, cultural god(s). It’s that most of them don’t even seem to understand what evidence is.

Re: “The Impoverished Bus Campaign”

I’m going to repost a response I added to a Christian blog post I came across from my stats reference page. I’m doing this for three reasons. One, I’m going to forget all about it if I don’t make a post. I would consider it rude to do a drive-by response, as it were. Two, comments are held in moderation over there (In A Spacious Place) so I don’t know if my post will ever see the light of day. Disallowing dissent is a big thing with Christians (look at Ken Ham or any of the other lying Christians who don’t mention by name those they criticize). I’m not saying the person who runs that blog, Christopher Page, is going to deny my post – I’ve never encountered him. I’m just hedging my bets. Third, I want to highlight what a surprising number of people consider to be evidence. Most Christians, at least when it comes to religious matters, are willing to count just about anything as evidence. It’s unfortunate, and it’s one of the reasons we constantly have these struggles with creationists dishonest fundamentalists trying to smuggle creationism intelligent design into schools.

Here is the bulk of the original post. The author is talking about a recent atheist bus campaign.

Apart from wondering who has so much spare time and energy that they choose to spend it on such an enterprise and who has an extra $50,000 lying around to finance the campaign, I would be curious to know what the luminaries behind this campaign understand by their use of the word “Christ.”

I presume they mean to refer to the historical person of Jesus. If this is the case, the real question is who they understand Jesus to have been. If Jesus was, as Christians believe, the embodiment of love, light, hope, goodness, truth, beauty, and light, it is sad to think that there are intelligent people who can find no more evidence for this reality than they do for the existence of Bigfoot.

In the world I inhabit I am surrounded by “Extraordinary Evidence,” of the power of love. Everywhere I look I see abundant evidence of hope, goodness, truth, beauty, and the indestructible power of life. It is a sad impoverished life indeed that is unable to find any evidence of beauty or any reason for hope in the world.

The list of “Extarordinary Evidence” for the Claims of Christ are abundant. I see the presence of Christ in:

At this point Page lists out a number of things he personally sees as positive. A few of them are:

the profound ability of tragically broken human relationships to find reconciliation and healing in spite of desperate hurt and pain

the extraordinary tenacity of human hope in the face of what often seems to be almost insurmountable suffering

the unstinting graciousness, kindness and generosity extended toward others by countless people in so many situations of desperate need

the endless determination of people divided by deep differences to find ways to live together in peace

the persistent determination of people to find ways to fuller, more meaningful, lives

Page finishes with the usual stab at atheists, saying we cannot see all the beauty he sees. He’s trying to argue a polemic. I’m not falling for it.

It is tragic to think atheists might be unable to perceive or to appreciate these wondrous mysteries of life. What could possibly provide more “Extraordinary Evidence” of the reality of the transcendent quality of love than the faces of parents holding their newborn?

What an impoverished existence if none of the realities of life tug at a deeper part of our being and cause our hearts to open to a profound mystery than can ever be contained by our intellectual formulations or our rational analysis. How sad to live in such a truncated universe that the beauty of creation moves nothing deeper in us than a parched acknowledgment that evolution seems to work efficiently.

It is not an absence of “Extraordinary Evidence” for the reality of love and life embodied in Christ that is the problem. The problem lies in the hearts of those who are unable, or unwilling to see.

The fact that Page is being dismissive of “intellectual formulations” and “rational analysis” is a good indication that there really isn’t much, if any, good evidence for Christ.

I responded:

First, who has that much money just hanging around, waiting to be spent on bus ads? Christians, of course! And – fortunately – now some atheist groups. This whole campaign is a response to those awful ads that spam buses and billboards, telling everyone a loving god is going to send them to hell for eternity based upon particular transgressions over a roughly 80 year period.

Second, nothing you listed constitutes a shred of evidence for Jesus, whether as a man or as a divine being. You can’t get away with proclaiming all the things you personally think are good as being evidence for Jesus because you’ve defined Jesus as good and loving and all those other things.

I do rather like the header image on his blog, though.

Following the evidence

When Edwin Hubble first discovered that the Universe was expanding and all the galaxies (except those in our local cluster) were moving away from us, he found that distance was proportional to velocity. That is, those galaxies moving two times as fast from us as closer galaxies were twice as far away. If they were moving three times as fast, they were three times as far. This was all great – and correct – but there came a problem from this. And that problem can be seen in Hubble’s data.

Extrapolating from this data, the age of the Universe was about 1.7 or 1.8 billion years old. Whoops, right? Yes, but for an interesting reason. Hubble didn’t have a reliable light source to measure distance. He relied on the Doppler Effect to determine the speed at which the galaxies were moving, but he didn’t know how far they were in the first place. He had chosen a particular type of star for his measurements, but there were complications in knowing consistent luminosity due to the fact that the stars could be of different sizes. This video explains it all.

The point I want to make is that when Hubble’s calculations gave a wildly inaccurate age for the Universe – around the same time, we were coming to a conclusion as to the age of Earth at 4.6 billion years – it wasn’t based upon bad science. In fact, the scientific method worked wonderfully. The issue was with figuring out just what was needed to obtain more accurate observations. That is, the science was never weak – and, in fact, science never is weak – instead the problem was merely one of needing better evidence. Once we were able to find standard candles, we were able to better utilize Hubble’s observations. In essence, that is what science does. It relies upon interpreting observations according to a methodology; the reason why it changes is due to better observations, not a change in general methodology. Can religion say anything remotely similar?

Thought of the day

I’m still waiting for someone, anyone!, to offer me even some evidence for God.

Thought of the day

The force standing in the way of proper science education? The force standing in the way of marriage equality? The force standing in the way of child safety? The force standing in the way of even beginning to find peace in Nigeria and the Middle East?


And is there evidence for its creation stories? Can it offer well-reasoned ethical arguments against gay marriage? Can it justify allowing parents to forego needed medical care for their children? Can it operate beyond its sectarian labels? Can it be reconciled with fundamentally different claims?


The Greatest Show on Earth

Dawkins gives an intro to his new book (which I have already pre-ordered).

Infuriatingly silly

Jerry Coyne has a post about why Francis Collins pollutes science with religion. It’s a succinct piece that basically nails Collins for all his silly, childish, superstitious, frankly stupid beliefs.

The most inane and disingenuous part of Collins’s argument is his claim that without religion, the concepts of good and evil are meaningless. (Collins’s slide 5 in Harris’s piece: “If the moral law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?”) That’s palpable nonsense. Good and evil are defined with respect to their effects and the intents of their perpetrators, not by adherence to some religious code. It is beyond my ken how a smart guy like Collins can make a claim like this, even going so far as to argue that “strong atheists” like Richard Dawkins have to accept and live their lives within a world in which good and evil are meaningless ideas

It’s inconvenient for Collins or any other religiously-driven person to admit that morality is a purely human affair. And really, it’s getting to be a tiresome argument. Explanations abound for how morality could have naturally evolved. That should be good enough to force any reasonable person to admit that, no, morality need not have a god, it need not adhere to the whims of one individual entity, and it definitely is not universal. Our ideas of morality change with the times, with cultures, with known facts, with context. The only real constant is that every human society has developed a moral system. The details within each system may vary wildly – in bin Laden’s, the death of most of America is just – but they are always put within some sort of construct. That does not mean that bin Laden’s version of morality is equal to any other version which may exist. One key component in any moral system is basing premises on facts. That’s the main reason that god-based moral systems tend to fail or be wacky (see inane hatred of homosexuality among, well, almost all the religions). It’s one of the reasons bin Laden’s system doesn’t work and is not equal to mine or yours or most Americans’ or other Westerners’ (or even most Muslims’).

Collins, like most Christians who think they somehow own the moral high horse, despite all the contrary evidence, does not understand that morality is not universal. It is only moral systems. His is broken and can only work because he’s made it malleable to the progression of secular values and understanding. Indeed, if religions weren’t so agreeable to such change, Christianity would be as much a relic as slavery. Of course, that isn’t to suggest that religion so easily moves along with reason. It doesn’t. It usually comes kicking and screaming, forced by the hand of rationality.

There are, of course, also statements made without evidence, including this one: “God gifted humanity with the knowledge of good and evil (the Moral Law), with free will, and with an immortal soul” And this (slide 4): “We humans used our free will to break the moral law, leading to our estrangement from God.” How does he know? What’s the evidence? Isn’t the distinction between the science slides and the faith slides being blurred here?

One thing I’ve been forcing myself to ask myself a lot lately is “Where’s my evidence?” I recently went on a big hike through the 100-Mile Wilderness, the most remote and difficult section of the Appalachian Trail. I recall passing a tree root that had made a sort of rainbow shape. Each end was in the ground, but the middle was up in the air (as opposed to laying against the ground). It was unusual, but I quickly thought “It must have been buried at some point before being exposed, thus causing it to pop up”. I had to stop myself right there. How did I know that? I didn’t. It was a plausible guess, but other explanations were also plausible. It could have grown that way. Another tree could have been there before being removed, long ago, by the Maine Appalachian Trail Committee (MATC). It could just be a brief, weird angle I had making me think it was a root when in reality it was just a fallen branch that appeared buried in the ground. All I had was a hypothesis, and one I wasn’t about to test. I had to settle with “I don’t know” as an answer. Sometimes that isn’t just a temporary answer. Every single claim/question about the after-life that Collins makes deserves a permanent “I don’t know”. He doesn’t have the evidence. As a scientist, he should value that above all else in his work.

But then again, he is a Christian. Religions do not value evidence.