Archive for Atheism

What It Takes To Convert An Atheist

jesus

Caucasian Jesus

How Jesus probably looked like, sans Kefiyeh

A picture of a Palestinian middle-aged man. How Jesus probably looked like, sans Kefiyeh. Acknowledging this would make wingnuts turn into pagans, since only pagans at the time of Jesus were Anglo-Saxon.

Over at the atheist mecca of Pharyngula, yet another broiling comment section ensues due to the latest conversion of former atheist blogger, The Raving Atheist (who apparently will be “The Raving Theist” from now on).

Many considered the possibility that it’s a hoax (still possible in my book, but I really can’t say one way or another), or that TRA was somehow goaded or wooed into his conversion. A few thought that a spade is actually just a spade and that TRA reached a decision in his life to follow his heart, and that no “violence” of any kind was inflicted, nor trickery used, on TRA.

I for one am not going to predict or ruminate on the matter of TRA’s particular conversion story. I would, however, say that I know what kind of events lead people to completely change their worldview, and Jeremiaically call the atheists’ bluff of certainty in their lack of faith (says I, a die-hard atheist).

See, I believe based on the books I’ve read about human nature, biology, and the cognitive dissonance we so often employ, and my personal experience, as well, that humans think and feel very differently. Many  times during my life, I feel certain things which I know for a fact  are patently false. I admonish myself, banging my head on the wall with accurate rationalizations to try and alleviate the damage my intuition and emotions cause. Sometimes it works.

The point I wish to make is that atheists make the decision to become heathens based on what they think (at least, atheists like me, who simply spent a few weeks with Dawkins and talkorigins and did the math). When I “became an atheist”, it wasn’t as though I needed any special encouragement from Dawkins or from any other atheist spokesman. Atheism was merely a result of a long string of computations I conducted faced with the evidence and non-evidence available.

What I feel, though, sometimes has nothing to do with evidence, but merely with the way my brain functions.

I say all of this because TRA didn’t say jack zilch about what made him think that Christ is his savior and why he knows that God exists and that he watches over him. Nope. TRA believes, and “knows God” in the “other ways” necessary to know him that Dawkins alluded to when he wrote :”There are many ways of knowing besides the scientific, and it is one of those ways that are needed for us to know God”.

There’s a point to this besides telling my “fellow atheists”  that they shouldn’t be so snarky at the bible-thumper formerly known as TRA. I wish to give an explanation as to why TRA converted in the first place, while trying to base it on the modicum of evidence available.

When mom died, I still remained an atheist. I was lonely, crazed, inflicted with mental illness and growingly paranoid. I didn’t find God, even though in these parts, God is almost everywhere (metaphorically speaking). I did, however, drastically departed from the person I was. I became, in many respects, my former exact opposite. This is the result of emotional trauma, not of rational thought, and everyone, atheist or not, can and often will turn against his beliefs and convictions when pressed hard against the wall with the hot-poker of reality.

I say then to anyone comfortable in his intellectually-based atheism: your atheism is a result of your personal worldview, and like all humans, your worldview is malleable, and mostly so when reality throws a hot cauldron full of shit into your life.

Addendum

I wouldn’t write this post the way I did if TRA’s post about his conversion contained anything besides appeals to emotion, evidence-wise. With all due respect to what I wrote vis. the way emotional turmoil can change a person, when I use my head to think and not my heart, I take every input cum grano salis, and in the case of amazing conversion stories like this, cum multis granis salis.

Friendly Atheist Meme

With a hat tip to Sisyphus Fragment, here’s a cute little atheist meme that I’d like to pass along here. The idea is simple – here’s an assortment of things that atheists do, did, or could have done (in some cases, things that define the “New Atheists”) – with all the things I’ve personally done boldfaced.

Cheers.

  1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge. (There’s probably nothing like that in Hebrew, and if there was, I’d be lynched)
  2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person. (I wish!)
  3. Created an atheist blog.
  4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone.
  5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic.
  6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron.
  7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know.
  8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc.
  9. Have come out as an atheist to your family.
  10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering.
  11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization.
  12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony.
  13. Donated money to an atheist organization.
  14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins.
  15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism.
  16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize. (Again, Israel, would be lynched)
  17. Hid your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away. (Not ashamed of dates, am scared of zealots)
  18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc).
  19. Attended a protest that involved religion.
  20. Attended an atheist conference.
  21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel. (he totally rocks)
  22. Started an atheist group in your area or school.
  23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism. (The process is very much personal, but the inspiration came from me)
  24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die.
  25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction.
  26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place. (lol?)
  27. Lost a job because of your atheism.
  28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count).
  29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills.
  30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
  31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”
  32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying.
  33. Have turned on Christian TV because you need something entertaining to watch. (Would have if we had that kinda shit. Do idiot rabbis count?)
  34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist.
  35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant.
  36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service). (practically illegal in Israel)
  37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic)
  38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism. (again, prescription for slaughter)
  39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God.
  40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift.
  41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public. (should start, but only wear it in Tel Aviv, otherwise lynched)
  42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them.
  43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God.
  44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants).
  45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it.
  46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.”
  47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all.
  48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to…
  49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray.
  50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you.

Who’s The Culprit?

It is often said (mainly by apologetics, and in a way, that’s how they’re defined) that religion is not to blame for religious bigotry or for religiously-motivated violence. The garden variety argument is that even though evil people can be religious, it is not religion itself that is responsible for their crimes and evil deeds.

An interesting discussion has sprouted at Sisyphus Fragment, and most interestingly so, the line of defense was held not by religious apologetics, but simply by everyday rational, coherent, intelligent people. The crux of their argument is that religious people would be ignorant to simply use religion (or brainwashed, and the difference is tricky) as a means to do evil, and that religion is not the only thing that’s being used to promote evil causes. This is very much true, and since no one said that religion is the only cause for evil, quite irrelevant in the defense of religion as a culprit.

An interesting argument defending religion arose when someone said that religion itself is not evil, but can be manipulated by evil men, and those attacking religion is not only pointless, but can be counter-productive. I’m not going to say anything about it being counter-productive not because I can’t imagine it being productive, but because I much rather base such a claim on credible sources and not just scatter historical examples and thought experiments.

What I will say, however, is that it is an interesting reduction of human evil to say that no doctrine of its own is culprable, including religious doctrine, but that only human beings are. In that respect, Nazis aren’t culprable by their adherence to the party, but only by the fact that they gassed prisoners to death (well, it’s more complicated than that, but the example is clear enough).

Anyway, I can’t completely disagree with that, and in many respects, I sometimes get the feeling that religious people get too much heat merely by entitling themselves religious. Religious people, like everyone else, pick and choose what they think is right or wrong (and many of them will agree, even elusively, that their morals are not dictated by the bible. No surprise there). So, this definitely flies in the face of every graffitti that goes “Christians are shit”, and even though a lot of well-intending atheists might sympathize (especially former Christians) with that sentence, I don’t.

But is Christianity, itself, a culprit? Obviously, Judaism will share the same cell should Christianity gets thrown to the tanty, but is it guilty of the crimes people commit in its name?

My answer to that is “not exactly”. Evil people will find some other way of grinding their axes at other people’s expense even if the Abarahamic religions never existed. The flip-side of that is that good men or women, or good-intending ones, might wrong their fellow mortals simply because the bible tells them so. They might even feel a horrible pain while doing so, and will even hate themselves for not being committed enough. They will feel a two-layered guilt: sympathy to the oppressed and servile guilt to their Master, the one who decreed that they should do things they really don’t want to, and really think they shouldn’t.

So addressing religion as “guilty” is meaningful only in the respect of specific laws and decrees that plainly, in a non-open-to-interpretation-way (see Deuteronomy), state that evil should be done. This is not an indictment of all religious people and not even of all religious laws or canonized books. This is an indictment of very specific laws that were barbaric when they were written (by whoever) and they’re still barbaric today, and religious people and athiests who aren’t, well, insane, will agree on that.

Jeff, a charming soul who also happens to be a Christian, would probably never even dream of committing any crimes in the name of Christianity or Jesus Christ, and he would agree that killing homosexuals is an evil decree (he won’t agree that that’s what the bible says, but if he did, he would agree it’s an evil religious decree).

So the real culprit is between the lines, not on the cover of the bible. Religion does not go to prison, only the written text in its holy books that sends good men to do the work for evil ones.

Post Cemetry

Today I found myself contemplating what happens to posts once they die. The most circulated blog I can think of is probably Pharyngula. PZ Myers’ words are being viewed and re-viewed about a million times every month, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets to more than that on particularly spicy seasons. But even Pharyngula has archives, and I’m betting the ancient posts (especially those on Pharyngula.org, the older blog) never get accessed again.

Blogs aren’t like books, codices of carefully constructed words, designed, should people “read Kafka” or “read Conan Doyle” to be immortalized as character witnesses for the authors who created them.

But with blogs, words are ephemeral. PZ Myers and other notable bloggers might have written amazing and popular posts in the past, and those posts are forever forgotten. It’s possible that some literary jewels were created almost on a daily basis, and they’re all gone forever. In a way, this makes blogging a middle-ground between literature and journalism. Sure, responsible bloggers proof-read and carefully pick their post’s main topics and issues, and very serious bloggers even write multiple drafts – but no post ever conceived beats the literary manuscript. The worded piece of art that its creator proudly refers to it as “my book”.

All of this made me come to the realization that even when I write a post that actually gets read (the only example I can give is the post I wrote about the Yom Kippur riots), I know that it doesn’t matter much. People click on a link, skim through your carefully crafted words, and forget all about you, or blog, and your post the next day.

So what makes the distinction between “a person who blogs” and a “blogger”? Unlike bookwriters, it’s not any particular post or even a particular category of posts, but simply the style and history of the blog. Most Pharyngula readers aren’t science afficionados, and even though I love reading PZ’s posts on science, most of the time PZ writes about activist freethought and liberal politics (or about their antagonists).

This is, of course, not a problem in the least, but still, Pharyngula is without a doubt more of an “Atheist blog” than a “Science blog”, and that’s hardly a shame. Seeing the world of science through a self-avowed atheist with the charming and captivating worldview of PZ Myers is quite rewarding on its own. However, reading a science textbook is rewarding in a totally different fashion.

This also brought me to the realization that this blog will probably never succeed in its current setting. It’s not necessarily because I’m a bad writer (I’d say “smack average” would describe me well) or because I write about boring topics (hardly, I’ve touched some interesting issues, entirely not of my own merit, while this blog’s been alive) – I think it’s because this blog doesn’t offer the possibility of a posse like other blogs do (religion related blogs are a good example to cite). I do not offer “a home for like-minded atheists” like Pharyngula does. I do not offer a breeding ground for passionate biologists or even rather interested young peers.
Obsessed With Reality, like me, is destined to always swivel and veer to whichever my convoluted mind is up to and that, since I’m no celebrity, politician, or large-breasted female human, is of no interest to almost anyone (except other reality-obsessives, which I scarcely meet or know of).

This fact, although disheartening, is never going to be a death warrant for the blog. Writing things down endows me with some sort of releasing sensation. To be obnoxiously poetic, I could say that putting my meandering thoughts and ideas in writing “sets them free”, in a way – and that is something I’ll always love and require and fortunately, this doesn’t need a large readership to achieve.

Freedom of Speech

Another pharyngulated blog, 2000 years of deception (hark at that), has brought to my attention a particularly obnoxious type of homeschooling, bigoted, hate-mongering, ignorant and odious individual. The bottom line is that miss God Hates Fags here says that homosexuality should be punishable by death and that with any luck some radical will blow up a “gay-friendly high-school”. She also said she doesn’t actually endorse this. Oh yeah, no sir!

Anyhow, since this is just another run-of-the-mill idiot with nothing to do but to spread tinfoil hat mouth-foaming belliigerence (and, tragically, inculcating it in her homeschooled children) – on itself it’s not big news and not particularly interesting. The only sympathizers clods like that have are other twerps with the same single-digit IQ.

However, being the comments prowler that I am, I sniffed the comments in 2000YOD (well, I’d obviously not look into the godbot’s blog for a balanced view, that despicable hag quickly deleted every comment from non-sycophants) and I ran into this jewel:

Anonymous said…
Flaging her blog is juvenile and close minded.

Hate Speech is still free speech. No matter how vulgar the message.

I’m sorry, all ye unfaithful – this anonymous chap is right. Freedom of speech logically entails freedom of dumb, hateful, poisonous speech. Freedom of speech enables Hitlers and Mussolinis, not just FDR’s and Churchills. If one accepts the right to free speech, one must also allow it for anyone with a dissenting and even disgusting view, and I fully endorse this woman’s right to display her revolting worldview to the world. At least that way more people can be made aware of this vile, sickening individual.

I’m using more expletives than usual precisely because I wish to make an example of my own free speech. See, I don’t think suppressing people’s view is a good long-term strategy for any purpose. It doesn’t even stand to reason even when we ignore the warm, fuzzy feelings liberal concepts like FOS give to us ( I’m not kidding, it’s given me warm fuzzy feelings ever since I heard of it in junior high. )

The thing is – if people have dissenting views, hushing them up won’t make them go away, and in any case, if there’s a personality or an upbringing that makes people susceptible to certain viewpoints, then shutting them up won’t make them change their minds, or change the fact that such viewpoints will survive. People always find a way, and writing about crap like said hag is just one of many methods of propagating disgusting ideas.

So my take on this is that freedom of speech does in fact and should cut both ways: it’s the right of useful, intelligent, modern human beings to express their views and to spread useful and egalitarian ideas and it’s also the right for bible-thumping yokels to dribble about how wonderful a world without people who are different than they are is going to be.

I also think that it’s solely the responsibility of sensible liberals to use that same right to vocalize their contempt, scorn, disdain, disapproval, disavowal and absolute flaming dejection at such putrid ideas.

In the end, it’s the winning ideas that win, not the most vocal ideas, though being overly vocal helps to propogate bullshit. But the end result is that people want power, and the way to power is in reason and in reason alone. If you convince enough people to use their heads and not the opinions of authoritative bigots, they will, in turn, use their heads to produce results better than they could before.

Then the tide will turn.

Speak out hard enough, and the truth will win: not because it’s warm and cuddly, but because it’s concordant with humanity’s biological reality: the truth is the best way to get to results, and only those who get to results get a say in anything.

Eventually, if enough people use their heads, the warm and fuzzy feelings (the truly important part of this whole “life” thing) will follow.

Ghostland

This time, I’m going to skip the usual evil atheist rants about how irrational and hypocritical Yom Kippur is and write a paragraph or two (or more) on a rather striking side effect of Yom Kippur.

Since this blog, with its 30-views-a-day-max, probably lacks any Israeli readers who probably know of this by now, I think I would probably make a few eyebrows to be raised by writing that on Yom Kippur, there is, indeed, a complete ban on driving a car or operating ANY business or shop whatsoever. Not even the workplaces/businesses/shops that are open on Saturdays are open on Yom Kippur. There’s something so powerful about this national day-of-stupid that makes everyone kowtow to it.

I spent yesterday evening (Yom Kippur begins at evening and resumes for 24 hours thereof) with my girlfriend at her place, transporting myself between my city and hers on my bicycle, since car-driving is not allowed on Yom Kippur (unless you really like being mobbed to death by angry, hungry neighbors).

Cycling “inter-state” is not new to me, I often cycled to Tel-Aviv and back and even further than that. It’s always a treat and with the pro-bike I have, it’s often a lot faster than a car in rush-hour. This time, however, it was extremely annoying. The streets last night were festered with bright-eyed prepubescent idiots and their unwary parents, apparently very much aware of a lot of inane aspirations barring keeping their tiny eyes on the road infront of them and not, as so often happens, ending sunny side up on the kerb.

Now, now. It’s not that I hate kids. I just hate it when a few thousands kids get on bikes and start cycling around without being precautious. It’s this whole inane ritual every year that, since there’s apparently insufficient supervision of this “bicycle-holiday”. Hundreds of kids all around Israel are injured and sometimes even admitted every year. It’s as though the silliness of not drinking nor eating for adults makes them envious of their children. (don’t mind not eating for a day, but not drinking? Shit, that’s stupid!). Apparently, there’s some jealous incentive to make sure kids suffer on Yom Kippur too.

But this is, really, not that striking side effect I wanted to write about. Cycling back home today (gotta get back to work, and I’m STILL procrastinating), I cycled the freeway, almost entirely by myself barring the occasional cycler (most of the cyclers congregate in urban areas. I guess their parents can’t walk so much without eating or drinking).

Cycling around the freeway, above bridges and entirely in the open, the wind finally unhindered by thousands of cars and now fully rampant and extremely resistent to my efforts to cycle through it, I actually found myself at awe of this human endeavor to completely cease all productive activity for 24 hours.

In a free society, it’s probably for the better that every person rests (and definitely atones!) on his own free time or when the time is right, but to see the roads entirely empty, whole streets deserted, ground-zeroish silence plaguing the streets and boulevards that are simply always buzzing with activity – that is simply wondrous and quite breath-taking.

If this occasion or holiday or whatever it is that Jews want to call it was a celebration of, oh, I don’t know, just our ability to walk on our legs for once without polluting the earth, or a national day of complete and utter repose, including, for some reason, not using cars – I think it’d be a great idea, or at least a nice party-game for the entire nation.

It’s just so fucked up that us Israelies have to couple almost everything pretty with some stupid and irrational conjunction.

It’s FUN to cycle, it’s good to rest every now and then, it’s simply breath-taking to be enveloped in silence in a world filled with architecture.

Ironically, it is for this reason that I love Yom Kippur more than any other Jewish holiday. This doesn’t lack the same dose of st00p1d that all the other holidays do, but at least on Yom Kippur I get to actually appreciate the country I live in in a different, more natural light.

A thing for Islam

In the past couple of days or so, I’ve been pursuing a debate that started rather casually in a blog called “My Islamic weblog”. All the comments are still there and the discussion is likely to ensue.

At first, my question was pertinent to the topic of the post, but knowing a biased little about Muslim approach to infidels and atheists like me, I was, at first, even afraid to post a comment. I was quite rattled when the writer of the blog, a rather warm and polite human being, eased my initial dread.

My first question was about the seemingly bizarre post-topic – dinosaurs in the Kuran and whether or not this actually says anything insightful about the Kuran, even if true. I didn’t bother commenting on this being an example of shoehorning in retrospect, since I deemed it would be rather pointless and besides, I had a bigger axe to grind, and that is: what is it, really, that Muslims, real, individual Muslims and not the pamphlet spewing, tinfoil-hat-garden-variety-war-mongering-fascist type think? By that I mean the kind that goes on TV and threatens to annihilate America and Israel in the name of Islam.

As anyone who follows the discussion can see, Muslims can also be completely impervious to other people’s belief or in my case, disbelief, so long as no one trespasses on their devotion to the Islamic way of life. I’m sure there’s much to talk about, and I’m just bound to run into things I don’t like, but since this is a completely new field, I’m actually quite looking forward to it, if they let me, of course.

At least the first shoe dropped – it is well supported from this debate that Muslims, on the whole, aren’t sitting up at night waiting for me to expire and adding some prayer to hasten the process. I don’t know any statistics, but it appears that at least some of them not only do not desire my death, but are seemingly also interested in co-existence.

I wish there were more people like that in Islamic leadership.

My conversion

With enough emotional distress, I too will believe in any nonsense my tormentors bring me. Humans above all are motivated by their emotions, far more than they are by their intellect.

Press the right buttons and every skeptic shall believe

and every prophet will become an atheist.

I want to have words representative of me, independent of me, that will show my gratitute (to nature, for there’s nothing other that we can see, and even this gratitude is nothing but overkill thanks to a non-agent identity) at the fact that I am not blinded by my emotions to believe in ghosts unmerited by evidence.

At this point of time, my mind has not been raped into dogma

but at any given point of time, the right disaster, the right indoctrination, the right buttons in my psyche pressed – can make me another mindless, religious, fanatic drone.

Let there be free thought, or humanity is doomed.

Pockets of Order

With much consideration to the tormented religious mind, I often contemplate what it means to think of our species, or life in general, as a pocket of order.

A lot of atheists who are into the evolution-creation debate probably know about the ancient and tired creationist argument about the second law of thermodynamics.

Now, I really can’t feel too comfortable talking about thermodynamics after I’ve interpreted and scribed for a deaf student who actually went to a TD course. There, I got a good glimpse of what thermodynamics actually is about and I wasn’t surprised to find out it doesn’t offer any evidence of any gods or creators.

But, I still have some idea of what this law is about, and I’ll put it out before this gets too messy:

the second law of thermodynamics talks about a quality or a physical entity called “entropy”. The thing really only makes sense physically if you take it into consideration with mechanical qualities in gases (although I bet the quality has some parallel in other phases as well). In short, entropy is just another variable in equations designed to predict the behavior of gases (that’s as far as I went in one semester, at least!).

The interesting part about the second law of TD is that it can be, in a not-entirely-figurative-way, a term used to denote a sense of disorder. That’s quite interesting, because it is actually a fact that in certain systems (ain’t going there), the amount of entropy always increases unless there’s some work/external energy or in English, “external factors” operating on the system. To put it in an example, if you take a low-entropy  gas and suddenly let it loose inside a large space/container, the atoms of the gas will, without interruption, aspire to become all messed up and pretty much evened-out throughout the space they’re situated in. The god of physics forgive me for the extremely loose and inaccurate description here. This can be called “disorder” because of a somewhat subjective definition for the word “order”, and in that case, I specifically remember what the professor said about “order”:

if you have a lot of ways of arranging a certain collection of atoms and, for some improbable reason (the improbable element plays a really important part here) – they tend to all arrange themselves in the same unlikely position – then the arrangement is considered ordered.

That said, order is nothing more than statistical euphamism designed to express improbable arrangements of matter in space.

The reason such arrangements, in the case of gases, for example, are improbable is because when there’s a large space for a collection of atoms to spread itself in, the energetic factors of each an every atom will always lead the atoms to be as evened out as possible as to minimize the amount of energy every atom has in accord to other atoms. This is just following a basic chemical and physical law: that atoms aspire to be in the lowest-energy conformation.  This is not some strange devil in nature that has strange whims – this is simply and observed and yet unrefuted reality – to be quickly discarded once refuted.

That puts even more subectivity to the term “order” – it means that the order we’re talking about follows from a definition of improbability based on our ignorance of situations in which matter does not follow the laws of physics that we know of. Order is nothing more than a convenient way of expressing a phenomenon in reality as we know it. There’s nothing about this term that means “special characteristics in life”. The “order” we have has nothing to do with the “order and discipline” that exists in, say, armies, goverment, police forces, etc. Even that “order” is nothing more than an abstraction to explain away certain obsreved patterns.

The reason I’m going through this whole caveat is because I’m fascinated with what this whole “order” thing really means: it means that us living creatures are doing something that is physically unlikely in a closed system. It is, of course, 100% likely in a non-closed system, in which tiny pockets of order are formed in an ocean of disorder.

My mind really starts sailing off when I try putting it into a more poetic use:

I think about the course of human history and the fact that even today, when there’s regulation books in the amazon river, civilization is still a tiny pocket of “order” in a messy sea of chaos. The order that exists in civilization is, of course, nothing like the order that exists in gas atoms. Actually, even though I didn’t go that far in the material, the TD professor said that things get really wobbly when you get the liquid and solid phases and eventually even to describe simple conditions, you need statistical physics to reach convenient approximations.

So it’s really stupid to actually draw evidence from thermodynamics to anything us humans do. Which is not what I’m doing in this post.

What I am doing is trying to make a poetic comparison between the two:

The order in our lives, expressed in the comfort that today and tomorrow are not going to be too drastically different from each other, the knowledge that it is quite unlikely for us to get killed or to lose a family member or a loved one, and that if something bad does happen to us, then someone’s going to pay for it.
Of course, even in the western world, it’s not like that. I’ve lost loved ones, I’ve had todays extremely different than their respective tomorrows, and sometimes life is indeed turbulent and unpredictable.

However, in many places in the world, even right now, people are whimpering in fear just like their animal counterparts in the wild. Women who are constantly raped know that it can happen again and no one’s going to help them. Men and children will be attacked, their family members will not be expected to survive – they live in a chaotic world with no rules or even a slight attempt to enforce them.

And I consider the kind of world I live in, with blogs and police forces and lawyers and imaginary lines in the sand that people actually do not cross to be as unlikely as a pocket of order. I consider it a rather striking simile that it is unlikely to have this kind of law and order anywhere in the world and it is much more likely to be utter chaos.

For the better part of human history, people have been obeying the laws of the jungle to survive. Of course, this has become much more refined in the modern world: people are not killed, they’re bought. People are not tortured into faith, they’re brainwashed or even simply tricked into faith – all for the personal gain of the leaders who perpetuate these faiths.

So the course of human history eventually bubbled enough steam and on the mountains of corpses of the past grew a world of smiling, fat, self-serving average folk who think they got the world by the balls and that everything’s going to be okay.

But this “okayness” is, again, something very unlikely. Like in TD, to perpetuate such “order”, you have to put in a lot of “work” into it. I consider the order that I enjoy so much to be the product of a lot of hard labor for a lot of people who want the same thing. It’s a win-win deal. In Israel, every person serves in the army for 3 years and that way we don’t get thrown into the ocean. In America, people pay taxes, obey the law, or are forced to obey the law by the hard work of the government and law enforcement agencies. The order is perpetuated by the muscle of those who desire it.

But the idea that this is a permanent situation is an illusion -we will always have to work to live in such a sheltering environment and we will always have to deal with the challenges the future brings to keep this “order” alive. This order could slip off our fingers any moment, any minute, and throw us into the dark ages. Our women raped, our men murdered, our children enslaved – the easiest way and the stupidest way to get personal gain out of other human beings is simply to steal them or remove them – and without working hard for a rational and moral humanity, that’s exactly what we’ll end up getting.

“Intelligent Science” – part 2: Randomness? Not a chance.

In the link presented in the previous post, Eric Kemp argues in length why science and, well, reality itself – is a problem for atheism.

Eric starts off with a nice quote by Bertrand Russell, completely ignoring the fact that Russell is not “the prophet of atheism”, his opinions do not in any way define the opinion of all or of any atheist. I guess that as a member of a death cult that puts a magical godlike human (that would be Jesus Christ), there is some disposition in Eric to assume that all “followers of atheism” (a ridiculous idea by itself!) would follow the words of “one atheist prophet”.

Well, sorry, Eric, I’m an atheist, and I didn’t go to “Atheist church” to become one. I just read a few books. It’s a lot easier (and cheaper) than getting seminary indoctrination.

In any event, Eric writes and quotes Russell as follows:

The universe came about by random forces.  In fact, randomness can be the only thing that is assuredly true about the universe.  The famous atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell put it:

“Academic philophers, ever since the time of Permenides, have believed that the world is unity . . . The most fundamental of my intellectual beliefs is that this is rubbish.  I think the universe is all spots and jumps, without any unity, without continuity, without coherence or orderliness . . . Indeed there is little but prejudice and habit to be said for the view that there is a world at all.”  (The Scientific Outlook, pg. 98 )

Let’s suppose, for a minute, that Eric is correct. Bertrand Russell, or as we Atheists call him: “The Man”, believed that the universe was created by random forces. Okay, what of it? I don’t know much about Bertrand Russell. I gained my atheism without reading a single word he wrote. I just adopted a way of thinking that works in the real world – the scientific method. That said, I have never given randomness the revere that Eric casually attributes to me (and my fellow “atheist kin”!).

The only way I distinguish between randomness and causality is, well, as anyone who is sensible, atheist or not, does: it’s called “statistics”. And even before I learnt some formal statistics on my own (I’m actually only going to start doing a formal course in statistics this semester, so you could say that I have no “formal training” in it yet). But I digress.

In any event, I did learn about probability and chance. I know that certainty of causal connections between correlated events has to do with strong correlation. After a certain, and somewhat subjective “line in the sand” has been reached, correlated events become causally connected. If I drop a hundred apples and a hundred of them fall, then the fact that there’s a 100% correlation between dropping apples and apples falling leads me to believe that there’s a causal link between the two.

Now, regarding the universe, now we’re talking about a much simpler scenario. Since we’re only dealing (I mean us so darn-empiricist atheists) with visible events, let’s take a look at the event “the creation of the cosmos”.

No one was there during the creation of the cosmos, of course. But it is quite evident, since we all live in the universe, that the universe is here. Thus, as far as I’m concerned, the probability of the creation of the universe is 100%. It happened, either by creation by a God/Gods that hasn’t revealed himself (and has given me no reason to believe in Him/Her/Them) or by an accidental cosmic fart by some great majestic cosmic being that likes to play darts and sometimes has universes as flatulence.

In any event, the existence of the universe is proof that it didn’t come here by chance because, well, it’sout of all the universes that could have been created (one), there’s one visible that’s been created. That’s a 100% success rate for our universe. Go universe! /sarcasm (Yeah, this is just a joke, I know that this paragraph is pure bullshit :-P)

The important thing here is that Eric seems to misuse the term chance or to abuse it by not defining it well. Since the only thing we can do as far as statistics is concerned is use all the instances of universes created we’re able to spot (i.e, 1) and all the instances in which it could not (i.e, 0) – then we can assume that there’s 100% probability of the universe being created. That’s the only way you can use the term “chance”, and the reason I never used it this way is because it’s a ridiculous, stupid, pointless way of using it. It doesn’t offer any interesting insights about the universe. It also goes to show that I believe in the exact opposite of what Eric is talking about. Don’t let the Atheist inquisition know.

No, seriously, now. I can’t say and I refuse to say that the universe was or is a product of random chance or some divine or even a natural cause. I simply don’t know and this fact, in no way whatsoever, prevents me from being an atheist. Since any Abrahamic God failed to present itself, I can with 100% safety deny any of their existences. Of some unknown, un-identified cosmic creator puffing the universe into existence and leaving no observable traces of his existence – there can be only denial until this entity shows itself. The only thing I need in order to be an atheist is the lack of evidence for any God or Gods. I don’t need randomness and I don’t need “Cause”. This makes Eric’s entire post completely meaningless, as it attacks a ridiculous strawman.

The reason atheists (of the scientific inclination, anyway) believe in natural laws is because natural laws have been observed and are self-consistent. A lot more that can be said about any sky-fairy conjured by desert-tribes thousands of years ago. Or for that matter, Urban Greek scholars even more than 2000 years ago. None of these myths are consistent in any other way except for a plagiaristic kind of way. The natural truth, however, has always been consistent. Every single ancestor of mine may have never met any single ancestor of some Yang guy living in China as the 200th generation of his line. Every single one of us believed that the sun existed because it consistently presented itself every morning.

And such consistency is all I need to “believe” in science, and the lack of which is all I need to discredit any God.

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