Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Bible Dragons

My pick for the next big creationist issue?


Sounds crazy right? (of course it is) But that wont stop bible literalists from claiming that all the talk in the bible about dragons is actually talk about dinosaurs.

It's another attempt to represent the confused mysticism of the bible as accurate scientific observation.

Another fantastic example of hindsight allowing a re-interpretation of the text to say it was true all along.

What I find disconcerting is that creationist literature is sounding more and more reasonable... not the arguments they are still crazy or just plain wrong, but the presentation is getting better.

If I had to attribute a cause I would say that the creationists have been learning from the climate change deniers. They are coming into the game with a lot of polish now and some very reasonable sounding people are realising just how much money can be made by telling people what they want to hear.

I don't for one second think that everyone espousing these view points actually believes them, mostly because much of the arguments being made are deeply flawed and that the way they are being presented shows an understanding of those of flaws and how best to hide them.

So when I see interviews like this

I have to consider that at least some of these people know what they are saying is false, but they have chosen to perpetuate a false belief system either for some emotional comfort or for monetary gain and given that these people make a direct living from presenting these beliefs I think the latter is more likely.

They even mention in this interview that there is no word for dragon in hebrew, that the word used can have several meanings including whale. And yet they use the current visual imagery of a dragon that not only did not exist until well over a thousand years AD but that has a clear and obvious evolution in western art.

Go back historically along the artistic representations of St George and the dragon (possibly the most iconic reference to any such creature) and you'll find that early images of a dragon look nothing like our current idea of the flying fire breathing beast. If anything they look more like a large lizard (don't forget that St George was actually a roman soldier from the middle east).

To assume that our modern image of a dragon is anything like the images in the minds of the biblical authors is not just a stretch It's obviously not true.

How long before the whole Jonah story gets reworked to include a dragon? Bible literalists will explain that it wasn't a whale because the actual text reads "great fish". This is mostly because it's physically impossible for a whale to swallow a person - even the biggest whales actually have tiny throats and can't swallow anything larger than a orange, plus the biggest whale stomach would not allow a human to stretch out much less stand up.

Fish don't score any better but they can always claim there is something we've never discovered yet living at the bottom of the ocean...

Of course "great fish" is only a short step away from "great serpent" and thats obviously a dragon right? Watch this space, I see a profitable book in the works for the first person to string that argument out to 80,000 words...

If, like Darak Isaacs, you can ignore the truth and have a good presentation manner about you then you too may have a long career ahead of you selling comforting lies about the bibles documentation of dinosaurs as "dragons" to gullible christians.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Ken Ham, still crazy

Just found out Ken Ham is running radio ads to promote his "Creation Museum".

He's not saying anything in them that he hasn't said before, he calls evolution a lie and says that creationists don't need scientific proof because... well... the bible says you don't!

Of course the authority he's quoting is Romans 1 which actually says:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Can't see the hand of god in all creation? Wrong! Of course you can, and if you say you can't you're lying! Says so right there in black and white "...suppress the truth by their wickedness..." See? you're not only lying you're wicked too.

This has been Ken's fall back for ages, he pulls it out whenever the mountain of evidence against biblical creation become too great for even his tenuous hold on reality to ignore.

First Ken makes the best case he can by using outdated science and bad logic, and when it fails he claims that evidence isn't needed, and in fact could never prove creation over evolution... Wait what? This man runs a website called "Answers in Genesis" whose sole purpose seems to be to hold up examples of validating the bible as literal fact. He even started a "Creation Museum" to show how he can make it all look so scientific and rational...  

In legal terms this is called a "double plea" or sometimes "duplicity" (does that sound like a good word kiddies?). It's a bit like saying "I didn't shoot that man... and if I did then it was self defence".

When I get upset at people of faith it's normally because of the harm they do to others and Ken Ham is a very harmful person. He perpetuates claims he knows are not true, and encourages people to teach these same mistruths to their children. He even discourages teaching children skills like logic and critical thinking because they might one day lead to people spotting the lies.

PS: Ken keeps throwing Romans up as his example that you don't need evidence for god, but thats not what it says. What it does talk about is that when people don't believe in god, they create their own gods and then it's just a short step to unnatural acts with animals (I'm not kidding, read the whole thing and you'll see).

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The debate that will not die...

I get tired, I really do, of people of faith repeatedly saying that there has been no solid debate to resolve the battle between creationism and evolution.

Yes, yes there has.

In fact the debates raged for decades, but most importantly there was a winner... (you guessed it) Evolution!

And lets be honest it will always win if for no other reason that they fact that it is something that we can use to predict results.

If you start with evolution you can predict the kinds of fossils you will find (and we found them) you can predict the shared genetic between living organisms (and yes, we found them too). We can eve predict the changes we'd expect to see in laboratory experiments (do I really have to say it this time?).

If you start with strict biblical creation, you get nothing, no predictions, no useful explanatory power at all. In fact the whole books only makes "sense" (I apologise for the abuse I do the word by using in this context) when people interpret it in hindsight saying "... Oh, they must have been using this really obscure (and often made up) definition of that word, that why no-body understood it before!"

Ok, that may sound a little harsh but seriously why do people think the jury is still out on this?

Do they really think that there are lot of scientists out there now doubting evolution?

The biggest list of creation "scientists" you'll find is about 200. That could seem like a lot until you learn that Project Steve has managed to get over 1200 scientists to sign up affirming evolution and it only accepts them if their first name is Steve.

Only about 25% of reputable scientists even believe in a personal deity the fraction who believe in true biblical creation is so small it's hard to calculate and most of them openly admit that they believe in spite of the overwhelming preponderance of evidence.

Every time I hear/see/read someone saying something like "Evolution can't beat creationism if schools allow fair argument" (check here for the full crazy on that one) I have this image in my mind of Monty Pythons Black Knight - Creationism got used to winning when they was no real alternative and now that its been replaced by an obviously better set of ideas it's just refusing to accept reality. Meanwhile evolution has headed off to something more productive with it's time.

I'm sure that people who demand creation be treated as a serious alternative to evolution must think they are being heroic but there comes a point when they look more deluded.

Please - Creationists, the debate is done, you ideology does not stack up against evolution as a meaningful source of knowledge or information. Stop demanding a rematch.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The daily crazy from AIG

Wow, the guys at Answers in Genesis just keep the hits coming...

Yesterday (26th April 2013) the dream team of Ken Ham, Steve Golden, Jeremy Ham, and David Chakranarayan published a discourse on the bibles instructions regarding the judgment of others specifically, its the habit people have of quoting Matthew 7:1 at christians arguing against same sex marriage abortion and any number of other personal freedoms:
"Judge not, that you be not judged"
Because of course you cant have christians being held to their own standards right?

In fact the article make some pretty impressive claims:

  • That the words of the bible are only wrong when "unbelievers" speak them.
  • That anyone who doesn't believe can't point out where AIG are wrong.
  • That even christians who dont agree cant point out where AIG are wrong.
  • Thats its loving to tell people they are wrong and stand in judgement of them.
  • That any judgment you tie back to the gospel makes it the judgement of god so you're not being judgmental really anyway.
  • and finally that christians can not be tolerant because they are following the truth of god.
The last one really scares me because it has that crazy kind of absolutist ring to it...  If you think I'm already over-reacting go to their article and jump to the end to read their conclusion.

"You cant use that book, thats our book!"

They leap right in saying that peoples claims against judging others are:
"...to excuse their actions when they are presented with the gospel and the plight of sinners for rejecting it."
Gotta love that, instant dismissal that anyone might have an alternative opinion, different moral values, or just be willing to suspend judgement until more evidence is in.

To be clear the above statement actually refers not just to the claim of with holding judgement, but any and all quotes of bible morality made by a secular thinker.

Thats right - They are starting with the assumption that any time a non-christian reminds a christian of the standards by which that christian claims to live it can be ignored because they are just doing to excuse their own actions.

This is worst kind of argument ad hominem! Following this logic only someone who agrees with them can point out their own hypocrisy. They are basically saying "you have agree that I'm right to tell me I'm wrong" - With an ability to twist logic like that, if Ken Ham wasn't so busy lining his pockets with money from the faithful he'd have a great future in used cars...

Ken says god is not the final judge anyway.

Their next step is point out that god is not the final judge anymore, he handed all that responsibility to jesus.

So right there any attempt to say god will judge just shows how ignorant the secularist really is because we all know that god and jesus are two entirely... different... things... err... right?


Judgement means different things and different standards depending on whose being judged!

You'd never judge a christian by the same standards you apply to non-christians right?

Apparently "unbelievers" need to be judged to "know christ", and christians need to be judged to "grow in christ". And apparently that means different kinds of judging. I think...

So you're an unbeliever? Ken has some bad news...

According to Ham et al all people have already been judged by god as sinners - sorry it's in the book (actually it says all men but I'm going to assume that Ken is a progressive guy and that he extends this assumption of evil to both genders and anybody finding themselves in the middle somewhere...)

Here we get the thrust of Ken et al's argument: The whole Matthew 7:1-5 is being taken "out of context to support [their] fallacious claims". You know, silly claims like everybody has the right to be in a mutually loving relationship, and you have the right not to die simply  because the dead and now septic foetus in your womb still has an autonomous heart beat.

You see apparently Matthew was just saying dont be hypocrites... forget the generally accepted interpretation that you should not attempt to even point out the problems of others until you dealt with your own much bigger problems... Ken and his mates are ready for that too:
"As Christians, we should be living godly lives so that we can first concentrate on our own repentance of sin. Sanctification is a lifelong process of being transformed every day into the image of Christ. Without this, we have no place in helping another brother or sister."

As christians they have accepted that they are sinners and as long as they are repentent, they have dealt with their sins and can now happily settle down to telling others how to live their lives. Even better ONLY those who repent their sins to god and sanctify themselves daily towards the image of christ are even in a position to pass judgement on others.

So just to paraphrase again "you have agree that I'm right to tell me I'm wrong"

I'm sensing a pattern.

So you're christian, Ken still has bad news...

Just when you thought Ken was about to let other christians off...
"Now, the ministry of Answers in Genesis acknowledges that there are many Christian pastors and leaders who sincerely have a love for the Lord Jesus Christ. These men have led many to Christ, work diligently with much perseverance for the kingdom of God, and minister to the hurting and sick—all because they have been transformed by the finished work of Christ on the Cross and His Resurrection from the dead. However, just like the rest of us, they are fallible and can fall into error, even regarding the issue of origins."
Yup, everything thing you do thats good is because of god... but you're wrong if you dont agree with us!

The authors of this little gem seem totally oblivious as they list multiple biblical examples of gods followers being wrong and only finding out later that the AIG themselves may possibly be wrong.

Ken et al claim in this part of their article that they are being loving to others by attempting to correct their error:
"Are we being loving if we allow our fellow brethren to remain in error and even deceive others? Of course not. Loving others requires that we graciously correct them when they fall into error (Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 1:11; Galatians 6:1). Those who err do not necessarily know they are in error; they are possibly deceived or ignorant. So we gently and carefully correct the error in regard to teaching, no matter what the situation."
Their only concession to the chance that they are capable of making mistakes is to return to the "truth of scripture" as their authority. So the bible, with it's omissions, contradictions, morality plays, parables, allegories, translations and (lets be honest here guys) out right errors - Needs to be taken as the absolute word of god.

Luckily the guys at AIG know exactly how to tell parable and allegory from fact and historical record... although apparently any christians who disagree with them on interpretation dont have that special skill.

So we find ourselves back at that standby attitude "you have agree that I'm right to tell me I'm wrong"

If nothing else they are consistent in their message.

Now they wrap up by saying that as long as they make "righteous judgments so that we can point people to the gospel" then they are being righteous people and following gods word.

Kens conclusion:

Quoting the whole "judge not" thing is always out of context according to Ken et al and just shows [you] "are not using sound thinking" which is of course AIG code for "stupid, because you disagree with us". "Sound thinking" or indeed any expression of rationalism is something that the AIG authors seem utterly incapable of in relation to biblical issues.

They go on to say that because they use the gospel to make their judgements from, they are always right and tolerance is impossible. Yes you read it right tolerance is IMPOSSIBLE for a christian - in their own words (not taken out of context):
"Their call for tolerance is impossible because as Christians, we are called to judge righteously, and judging between right and wrong is something we do every day—and it should be a part of biblical discernment in every believer’s thinking. But it is God’s Word that makes the judgment on morality and truth, not our own opinions or theories."
There is no point debating people who start from the position that they already know the absolute truth of the universe and any argument or evidence to the contrary is just lies, or misinterpretations. The AIG crowd are either world class scam artists playing on the gullible, or crazy beyond the point where they should be let out unattended (they probably have people from both camps).

These authors leave themselves literally no room for movement, no scope for error or interpretation at all.

If they honestly believe that no rational argument, no logic, no reasoning, no external evidence, indeed nothing their own minds can conceive or undertand should ever override their current interpretation of the gospel, then they are beyond help, and the best we can hope is that they dont ever reach the point where they consider dissenting thought as harmful enough that it requires a physically response - although it seems this point has already been reached if they feel it necessary to put guard with tasers in their "creation museum" to prevent dissent being expressed in the building...

Monday, 22 April 2013

The blind spot of religion.

Religion has a huge blind spot when it comes to believing things on faith.

Ask someone of any religion if it's ok to take things on faith and they will say "yes" because its one of the pillars of their thought process.

They believe something with no solid evidence (the creationists try to say they have evidence but it's just thinly veiled justifications) and it allows them to make all kinds of absolutist moral judgements without recourse to any argument beyond the authority of their faith.

Recently the Family Research Council which is one of those "lets start a christian faith based organisation with a christian faith based agenda but give it a name that doesn't sound christian so people wont see our inherent bias " organisations posted an anti gun control message, from which I quote:
If Congress wants to stop these tragedies, then it has to address the government's own hostility to the institution of the family and organizations that can address the real problem: the human heart. As I've said before, America doesn't need gun control, it needs self-control. And a Congress that actively discourages it--through abortion, family breakdown, sexual liberalism, or religious hostility--is only compounding the problem.
This was written before the Boston bombing and in specific reference to tragedies like the recent Newtown shootings. While I agree that self control is the most important thing when it comes to guns, I'm not sure that they can justify legalising abortion and allowing divorces and same sex marriages as causing their society to rot away.

What stuns me is that apart from a major mental malfunction or radical political indoctrination, the only force we know of that can cause someone to justify and rationalise the horror of mass, unprovoked murder is religion.

And ONLY religion gets upset enough about growing "liberalism" to think that violent actions needs to be taken - everyone else just gets on with living their lives now with additional liberty. Remember that just because you have the right to have an abortion that people will stop having children or using birth control. Just because people can get divorced does not mean that they will and just because same sex couples can marry does not mean that any other marriage commitment by a heterosexual couple is in any way diminished.

The "hostility" they see towards religion is nothing more than the observation increasing acceptance that religious values and the values of religious institutions should not get disproportionate representation in the making and application of laws and public governance.

The reason for this recent move is that religion is not an inherently good guide to deeds, each religion contains dogma that does not reflect public values and often contradicts the values of other faiths. Government, laws and policy must be cognisant of the true shared values and welfare of the people. If this does not reflect religious doctrine then it shows religion is failing the people not the other way around.

Acts of violence are routinely carried out by people of faith, suicide bombings are an obvious example, as is israels displacement of an entire people to gain land they felt was given them by god, or the practice of female circumcision -generally accepted outside practicing faiths as a brutal form of mutilation.

Of course in todays world it easier to find islamic examples (such as stoning for infidelity etc) than christian ones without using the over cited example of bombing abortion clinics. However this is because christianity benefits from generations of forced liberalisation - left to it's devices do you honestly think it would not still be burning people for heresy?

It reminded me of an appearance on Bill O'Reilly by Sam Harris some time back where he pointed out the believe in getting 72 virgins as a reward for martyrdom was no more crazy than the belief that a sip of wine and a mouthful of wafer actually became human flesh and blood in your mouth. Of course, as Sam points out these have massively different outcomes and moral impacts but they are both absolute beliefs that are (to a non believer) manifestly crazy.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Faith cant prove a negative either.

One argument you'll see often is that you cant prove a negative. I've already pointed out in a previous post that this fundamentally wrong and at best you can only assert that you cannot disprove a claim that has no testable qualities.

This means that you cannot prove there was no creator standing behind the big bang because we have no way to test that claim.

I cannot disprove that some god created the universe.

I also cannot prove that some god created the universe.

And of perhaps greater concern for people of faith the inability to disprove one creator (especially when evidence that contradicts the creation myth is dismissed as intentional by the creator) equates to the inability to disprove ANY creation myth from the Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime to the Mesopotamian myth of creation.

Why god? Why a single god? There are many discussions on this topic, but deeper morality issues like freewill and the problem of good and evil actually get easier to counter if you have more than one god. Mesopotamian creation gives as much scientifically accurate information as genesis and neatly explains how not everything in the universe seems to go to the plan of a single good loving god.

Why not spirits that become alive, waking into physical forms, becoming the material from which the universe was created? The Dreaming offers more coherent answers to questions like good and evil by explaining that the creators did think or live in such simple bipolar terms.

The christian creation myth is not even consistent, with two conflicting descriptions of genesis. For a widely accepted religion it falls far short of meeting any burden of proof.

At least the Dreamtime doesn't attempt to include a timeline for the creation of the universe... especially one that that fails as badly as genesis to meet the facts. Ask a young earth creationist how we can see light from stars so distant that it must have taken more than 6000 to reach us when the universe is only 6000 years old?

Actually dont do that - especially not from answersingenesis.org whose ramblings will rapidly muddy the water with ideas like:

  • "observational science" vs "historical/origins science" (Which is nonsense, science is a method pure and simple - there are different areas of study but there are not different ways to do science other than good science and bad science. You would not trust a doctor who said he would cure you with "elf science" that he got from a book on elves, or "better luck next time science" where his cures have always killed the patient but "he's got to get lucky sooner or later right?").
  • The idea that the universe was created "fully mature" like Adam was! (This would only make sense if the universe was like adam and one of many we could compare to determine what a "maturity" universe is)
  • That the speed of light is widely variable (While it does actually change depending on the medium, its not by much and if it did change that much we would see evidence in comparing closer stars with ones further away)
  • That time is not rigid (Sorry... this one is totally laughable given that the whole premis of young earth creation is based on a day in the bible being a single normal 24 hour day as we know it.)
  • Finally they will probably wrap up with some poorly and incorrectly explained physics - If you want to know what a big bang physicist says then ask one directly the web is full of really good explanations - try starting here). 

None of these arguments actually work, AIG just includes as many as possible to make it look like there is a lot of doubt on the issue - which there isn't.

Every time a testable quality of a god claim is removed or watered down or described as a special case (special pleading) they weaken their own argument and god moves further from an actual claim to a vague idea.

But best of all every time a religionist dodges the question and refuse to make testable claims about his god and his creation myth he strengthens the claims of every other creation myth and any creation myth you care to make up on the spot. They are all as testable and verifiable as each other.

Religionists weaken their own ability to tell fact from fiction when they use these arguments or claim that even a tiny chance that something might be true in some form means that it is totally true.

You'll find evidence for this in the number of people who believe in ghosts, spirits, white witches, and other forms of mysticism in addition to a claim to follow christianity or other faith that do not actually support those beliefs.

Religionists need to stop hiding in doubt and bring their arguments and claims into the light. I dont agree with the AIG guys but at least they clearly communicate their claims and dont shy away from them just because they are manifestly wrong.

It's foolish but it has a certain integrity.

Now if only they could stop misrepresenting science, quoting out of date research and reciting logical fallacies then there might be hope for them.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Ever been told you're not an Atheist?

The whole "you're not an atheist, you're just an agnostic" keeps turning up in christian apologetics.

I'm going to explain why the argument is a fallacy to begin with and from there I'm going to point out why most atheists far from being agnostics are in fact gnostic atheists because they know that god claims are false.

I'm also going to prove that all but the most rabid fundamentalists are agnostic.

Lets start with an example of the "you're not really an atheist" argument:

Theist: Have you heard the word of [insert deity]?
Atheist: I'm an atheist.
Theist: But you can't prove a negative can you? you cant be totally certain there is no god?
Atheist: Well no, not totally certain, but I think its a pretty safe bet.
Theist: Ok, but that's not the same as absolute knowledge is it?
Atheist: No it's not absolute knowledge I never claimed that.
Theist: So if you cant say for certain that you know wether god exists or not then you're just an agnostic and not an atheist!
Atheist: Well... err...
And so on.

There are several problems with this argument, firstly while gnosticism is concerned with knowledge, atheism is concerned with belief, they are not mutually contradictory. Thus it is possible to be both.
Remember that atheism is the rejection of a theistic claim but does not necessarily extend to the anti-theist position of accepting the claim that god does not exist.

The second problem is the assumption that because you cannot be certain one way or the other of the existence of god that you must be agnostic. This is true only when "god" is left totally undefined, if you include a clear definition of god, such as "god as literally defined by the king james bible" then you now have sufficient inconsistencies and contradictions to say that you have knowledge that that specific god does not exist... and in fact you'll find that many (non-fundamentalist) christians would be forced to agree.

The biggest error here is the old "you cant prove a negative" chestnut which often gets bandied around.


Of course you can prove a negative! someone claims they have a real, live, ordinary 5 tonne, actual solid african elephant in their pocket, and you reach in - BOOM - Negative proved!!!

I can prove the nonexistence of a huge number of things, indeed anything with testable qualities. If your child is scared to go to bed because there is a werewolf in the closet... you open the closet to prove the negative, full stop, end of argument. In fact the only way to continue the argument (and children do this all the time) is to change what they mean by werewolf - "this one is special and can turn invisible!".

What is frightening is to see how fast people of faith revert to the tactics of a little child afraid of the dark.

The bible says the universe is six to ten thousand years old? how come we see stars that are so far away their light would not have reached us yet? - Just proved a negative, thanks for playing... but then we get "No no no no... god put the light in the sky already on it's path to make it look like the universe was older!" - Excuse me? where in that funny book of yours does it say the universe was made to old?

Its such an old trick, you prove the negative by using a testable quality and they change the claim. It's called "special pleading" and it's the main tool in the religionists arsenal against rationality.

You will often hear atheists debating religionists cede the point that god cannot be disproved - This is because the most abstract concepts of god are indeed untestable. and therefore cannot be disproved. So debaters skip quickly over the argument without having to deal claims that the monster in the closet has harry potters invisible cloak.

So remember when you speak to theists:

  1. You can be an atheist and an agnostic
  2. You dont need to be agnostic about specific claims. You can test and achieve knowledge
  3. You can prove a negative where testable qualities exists and if they change the definition of god then they are the ones who cannot claim absolute knowledge. They are agnostic on their own claims.   

Best of all, when someone tries the "you're agnostic, not atheist" argument you can just tell them they dont understand enough about either of those terms to use them in a discussion