Archive for Unapologetics

Sukkot Insanity – A Replica of a Thing That Does Not Exist

I always puzzled over what is it that Americans call “the holidays”. In Israel, it’s usually a phrase denoting the rather ghastly period at the end of September and throughout October in which an Israeli has to endure Rosh Ha’Shana, the Jewish new year, Yom Kippur, the day when you just HAVE to be sorry in, and now, last but definitely least, Sukkot.

See, it makes some sense to have a somewhat arbitrary date and base your calender on it, and commemorate in one way or another the first day in it. Of course, us Jews (speaking of those who actually buy into Jewish mythology) often sprinkle it with rituals, occult meanings and last but definitely extremely least: horrible traditional songs.

It also makes some oblique sense to have a day in which everyone in the land says “I’m sorry” and pretends to mean it simply because this day was (now definitely) arbitrarily made up by some acolyte more than 2,000 years ago.

But, as so happens in the slippery slope (read downward spiral) of the rational mind inflicted with ancient and non-amenable religion, indeed we gradually become to the most ridiculous celebration of all. Sukkot is by far a senior-ranking instance of the stupidest holidays ever to be canonized by an entire people.

The reason I’m saying all of this is because no serious archaeologist has any doubt that there was never, not even once, anything even remotely similar to the exodus event. I think the only time in history where a really large population of Jews trekked the desert areas from Palestine to Egypt was actually the other way around, when the IDF crossed the Suez canal and kicked modern, Arabian Egypt’s ass on the 6-days war.

It is, actually, far more likely that the ancient Israelites were just another bunch of desert tribesmen, and if there’s one thing that tribesmen like to do, is to make up amazing bullshit stories about their legendary past.

Sukkot is actually a still-used word in Hebrew that means “huts”. Well, not exactly huts, more like makeshift oblong yurts. Obviously, since no ancient Israelites ever built real “Sukkot” while trekking an unlikely 40-years period in the desert, no one actually ever built “the right kind of Sukkot” like the Israelites did.

This is because Exodus never really happened and it’s just a stupid, ancient myth.

As I am writing this, a Suka (singular for Sukkot) is standing erect about 15 meters away from me (I live on the first floor). I was able to witness its 30-minutes-long erection (that is the only thing I can find enviable in a Suka). It’s outlined, like most modern-Israeli-variety Sukkot, by steel or iron thin bars, nailed to each other to make a completely bare skeleton of a hut. The Suka is covered with canvas or some cheap synthetic substitute, usually adorned with Torah verses and filled with mystic artifacts with silly symbolic meanings.

A traditional, exact replica of an ancient Israeli Suka

A traditional, exact replica of an ancient Israeli Suka

The Sukkot are, as Christians and possibly even Muslims as well might know, a homage to the jerry-rigged huts the Israelites built in their non-existent flight from Egypt, making it quite staggeringly a nation-wide effort to build quasi-replicas of structures that never existed in the first place.

This past month is just one national insanity after another. I love my country, but sometimes I really wish I could just get out of this madhouse. The fact that millions of fellow countryman are happily conducting one stupid, inane ritual after another without even for an instance questioning or doubting it really, really gives me the creeps..

“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.

Intelligent Science – My God makes no sense, that’s what makes him God!

I am going to have endless fun with this guy. Eric Kemp wrote a new post, this one with serious readership to it, called “Atheists Believe in Chance”. Funny, here again with the unwarranted accusations. “We atheists” (whatever the hell that means, what makes Eric lump us into one group, I don’t know.) again are being accused of “believing in chance”. Which means, to Eric’s opinion, that atheists have unsubstantiated faith in something he defines as “chance” (and uses quotes from various reputable sources to confirm this definition, kudos) and this belief somehow makes our worldview inconsistent.

That was a lengthy post that made more than just one point, and it has, to date, 20 comments, all very long. What I wish to focus on is something that I find very fascinating in creationist psychology, particularly in intelligent creationists like Eric:

Eric is intelligent, skilled and probably erudite in many fields. He also appears to be consistently fair as a debater… Except whenever he reaches the point where he either has to explain why his God is a better explanation than whatever straw-man version of “the athiestic version” he proudly admonishes, or what his God actually is. Whenever Eric stumbles upon the “Unlike all that godless rubbish, my God, here…” point, something in Eric’s mind happens that I find fascinating.

Allow me follow the post a bit, mention a comment written about the post, and Eric’s reply to it just to show you what I mean. Eric wrote:

(In relation to the “first cause” argument)

“The atheist will then object and say, “Well, then what caused your God?”  There are two problems with this counter-argument.  First, to make this argument the atheist must be admitting to their faith in this infinite regress and attempting to ignore the irrationality of that faith.  Secondly, God is outside of natural existence and therefore doesn’t need a causer.  In fact, His ability to not need a cause is one thing that makes Him God.  This counter-argument is also invalid because it’s completely consistent within the Christian worldview to claim God does not need a cause while it’s not consistent with the atheistic worldview to claim an infinite regress of causes.”

The First Cause argument, as I know it, is easily refuted simply because if Eric (or any other creationist) claims that God does not need a cause to exist, then by the same token, neither does the universe, which, according to Eric’s reasoning alone (and not, I admit, his version of the “atheist’s reasoning”!) – means that he doesn’t actually NEED God to explain the origin of the universe.

So okay. Old hat. Eric’s God, apparently, is outside of nature. It fits perfectly as an explanation. Actually, because it fits perfectly as an explanation to everything, it explains, unfortunately, nothing. By the same token, the by-now infmaous and sacred flying spaghetti monster could be “just as outside of nature” and just as good as an alternative for Eric’s solution to the “Nature-created-by-something-out-of-nature” problem. This, of course, is completely regardless to this whole “the universe must had a cause” tripe, and moreover – this can also be said assuming that it’s true.

But I’m not writing all of this to refute this ancient argument, I’m writing this because while following the comments a bit and seeing Eric respond to them, I see, to my opinion, two version of Eric. One is consistent, objective, fair and insightful. The other one, for some reason, seems to be completely impervious to the vast disingeniuty of his reply to soon-to-be-quoted comment(s).

Let’s be slightly lazy (these posts tend to be over-lengthy as it is) and just skip to the second version (it’s also the more interesting version, in my opinion.)

Commenter “cubiksrube” wrote:

“I also don’t know what, if anything, “caused” the universe. An infinite regress of any sort doesn’t seem to make sense (which seems to be your point as well), but, again, this doesn’t mean the first God-themed idea which satisifies this one criterion should be lauded for it. “Outside of natural existence” is a meaningless collection of words intended as a get-out clause applicable to your god and your god alone, to account for the fact that the creation of the universe, or a time before time, is an inconceivable notion to our squishy human brains any way you look at it.”

This is an excerpt of a detailed comment. It originally contained a detailed rebuttal of other arguments in Eric’s post. The reason I quoted this paragraph is because rubikscube here refers directly to what Eric wrote of the nature of God, and what makes that God, to him, a plausible explanation for the beginning of the universe. To be precise, rubikscube specifically addresses Eric’s definition of his God and points out that “Outside of natural existence” is a meaningless collection of words intended as a get-out clause applicable to your god and your god alone”.

Ouch, I thought. Okay, now there’s a head, a hammer, and a nail shoved firmly into to said head. Anyone not familiar with creationists might wonder how Eric could miss something as trivial as this, but it gets pretty common for creationists, while making blunt and obvious remarks about their “God hypothesis”, to simply mutter some half-assed reply that doesn’t seem to be the product of much effort to revise the original argument, to wit, Eric replies with this familiar gem

“It’s actually quite simple. If God created matter than He must be not made of matter, He must be spiritual in nature. If He’s spiritual in nature then He isn’t subject to causes.”

Amazing. While confronted with the utter uselessness of Eric’s particular version of the God hypothesis, Eric’s most prominent “rebuttal” is to exchange one useless explanation with another. This is NOT a simple explanation, Eric. If God is outside of nature, then there’s nothing you nor I can know about Him, and there’s no plausible explanation as to why you deduce his particular identity or why you assume (using metaphysics alone) that he should be “outside of nature”. Matter makes matter all the time. Why can’t God, or even the Christian God, be some kind of majestic alien bio-engineer? This is somewhat less far-fetched than some wraith poofing things into existence like magic tricks, and it also allows God to be at least remotely fathomable.

If God truly is out of nature, Eric, then there’s nothing simple about using him as an explanation. Saying that God is out of nature is exactly the same as saying that he is spiritual in nature/not made of matter. It explains nothing. There’s no excuse why this God and not any other is this proposed spiritual entity, no way of deciphering what “being a spiritual entity” means in any sensible way, no reason for us to find this “spiritual God” to be any more than a “get-out-of-jail-free-of-explaining-who-this-God-person-really-is” card.

If there is anything at all to learn from dabbling in such ancient poorly-designed retorts, a la Eric’s, it’s from what’s going through his mind whenever he is pinned down to the “God hypothesis” question. This guy, showing eruditeness, eloquence and, uncharaceteristically to a creationist, some fairness and objectivity, seems to squirm while confronted with this type of question and simply hand-wave it with some half-assed euphamism for the exact same poor explanation.

It’s as though something hurts Eric at this point, something strikes a nerve, something twists Eric’s emotional condition to completely forgo his use of his (well-exhibited) intellect and just, well, spew out this non-explanation. It sort of reminds me of how people behave or talk when you fight with them, or how I talk and reason when I’m in serious distress: there’s some sort of weaker version of our intellect that’s still on when we’re pinned against the wall while the rest of it is turned off during such duress, and perhaps it is such duress, originating out of some mysterious reason, that acts upon him to resort to irrational responses whenever someone touches the topic of God’s nature directly.

“Intelligent Science” – Absoluteness? Absolutely not!

In a post Eric calls “The Atheist is a Thief” (kindof a spooky title), Eric writes this lengthy introduction before delving deeper into the “atheist problems” due to the atheist “hypocritical denial of and reliance on absoluteness”:

What this means…

This basic atheistic position excludes all absolutes.  Not only will every atheist you talk to proudly declare that absolutes don’t exist but, in their worldview, this MUST be true.  Since the universe came about by random means, there cannot be absolute laws.

How is this a problem for the atheist?  It seems that this position absolves them of any moral responsibility except for what any atheistic individual deems moral for him- or herself.  This position also excludes God on the outset, which suits the atheist well.

Whether the atheist recognizes it or not, he uses absolutes every day.  In fact, the inclusion of absolutes is REQUIRED for his position to be viable.  We will tackle the full extent of this statement in a later post.  For now, we will focus on just one absolute that the atheist uses.

The Uniformity of Nature

This is the idea that nature, given a set of conditions, will act the same way every where at all times.  Meaning that stubbing your toe on leg of a coffee table won’t suddenly become the most pleasurable experience you’ve ever had.  No, it’ll hurt quite the same as it did the last time you stubbed your toe.  For you nerds out there who want to do further research, this is also the idea of induction.

Science depends on the fact that nature behaves in a coherent, law-like way.  For science to be viable not only must nature act law-like now but it must do so in the future.  Nature must also act law-like in every corner of the universe or we wouldn’t be able to depend upon it anywhere.  In order for any empirical result to have meaning five minutes from now, nature must be uniform.”

This is one of my favourite parts in reading and analysing banana-shaped reasoning. For some bizarre reason, Eric makes illogical conclusions, and not only that, those conclusions are made out of invalid premises. Let’s take a closer look.

When Eric says:

This basic atheistic position excludes all absolutes.  Not only will every atheist you talk to proudly declare that absolutes don’t exist but, in their worldview, this MUST be true.  Since the universe came about by random means, there cannot be absolute laws. “

I seem to be getting the feeling that Eric mistakenly equates “atheist” with “scientist”. And, case in point, that “atheist=someone who thinks according to (Eric’s idea of) the scientific method”.

So, in the first sentence, we can already see bogus reasoning. Why would an atheist need to exclude all absolutes? Why does such reasoning recur in apologetic “rebuttals” of atheism time and again? I don’t think it’s atheists giving themselves a bad reputation (or fellow atheists with different worldviews, Russell notwithstanding) – I think it has to do with some theistic paranoia of a world with no unifying, powerful, protecting authority.

In any event, let’s leave the “atheist=scientist” fallacy alone (whether or not this fallacy has been committed) for a minute and take a look at what Eric says about atheists, and later, how it contrasts with the “atheist appropriation of science”:

Not only will every atheist you talk to proudly declare that absolutes don’t exist but, in their worldview, this MUST be true.  Since the universe came about by random means, there cannot be absolute laws. “”

This is almost a fascinating exhibition of ignorance. I remember sitting through Thermodynamics class last semester and hearing the professor say, almost to the letter, something like this: “All these laws (and painfully enough, there are so darn MANY of them!) are not real laws. They’re only laws until some observed reality defies them”.

So the atheist/scientist/whatever Eric wants to call it – doesn’t hypocritically “rely on absolutes”. (and I’m really not basing my idea here on a professor’s authority, this was just as an example of how inane Eric’s argument about “the need for absolutes” is)

The mere phrase sounds ridiculous to anyone with a grain of scientific training: Scientific thought and the process of scientific discovery is all about trying to break the rules, finding out new evidence and, in the best cases: change everyone’s mind about the universe. Now, now. I’m not saying that all that scientists try to do is make everyone look silly (not an aspiration I’d like to have as a scientist, anyway). What I am saying is that science works by observing the real world, and trying to figure out more about how it works and why (by establishing causal connections between phenomena), regardless to what we already know. That said, Eric here got it backwards. A scientist (and a “science-inspired” atheist) always seeks to find out where the “laws” don’t work. This is not, of course, a matter of scientists trying to rebel against “laws” or “scientific dogmas”. This is merely a case of refining our knowledge of the universe. Using the classical example of Newtonian physics compared to Relativity, the “laws broken by Einstein” should better be defined as refinements of the “laws” defined by Newton in cases where Newtonian physics fail to give us precise answers.

There is no reliance on absoluteness for (any intelligent, anyway) atheist who thinks and reasons according to the scientific method. There is only the constant, and ever exciting process of refining our knowledge of the universe by learning about new natural “laws”. The word “law” in here is misleading, and Eric falls right for it. “Natural laws” aren’t like human laws. They’re not carved in stone (and in the case of some religious laws I was taught of, they don’t reek of blood). These laws are just human abstractions for phenomena that occur consistently in a particular frame of circumstances and conditions – which are easily broken as soon as these conditions are modified.

“Intelligent Science” part 1 – on Eric’s “fine-tuned universe”

First, I want to address Eric’s major claim about the “fine-tuned universe argument”. That is, that the universe has many characteristics that , should any one of them be even slightly different than it is, then human life, or any form of life as we know it, would not be possible.

Eric opens up with this little caveat:

Lately I’ve been addressing, following the logic of the atheist universe, the atheist’s inability to explain the uniformity of nature.  First showing that science depends on the universal nature of absolute physical laws, which we cannot expect to have if the universe has a random beginning as atheists claim.  Then showing that the atheist must use the Christian worldview to expect an orderly universe, in order to make science viable, to then use that science to reject God.  As if science in and of itself could give them the ability to rationally do so. ”

This shows a lot of interesting inherent assumptions that I was simply embarrassed to notice: Firstly, that science “depends” on the (or a-) universal nature of absolute physical laws. First of all, Eric here seems to equate Atheism with the scientific method. Even though I’m aware that atheism is the product of the scientific method and worldview, it doesn’t have to be. It could be the mere desire for rebellion against the authority of God or his self-ordained representatives on earth.

In any event, Eric doesn’t seem to give a chance to the possibility that some aspects of the universe are chaotic. I seemed to have missed his explanation as to why he assumes that everything has a cause or why randomness is impossible or isn’t observed. Maybe I should forgive him, since this wasn’t a major topic in his discussion of the so-called “atheist worldview”.

He definitely doesn’t define what “orderly” means to him other than the fact that it allows life to exist.

But, thing is, what Eric doesn’t seem to contemplate is that the only reason the universe may “seem fine-tuned for living forms” is because we know of DNA-based living forms but not of anything else. We could, of course, imagine to ourselves life forms that are not DNA-based, life forms that evolve in nanoseconds and not in billions of years, life forms that are only possible in a universe in which Planck’s constant is equal to 50 (and not aproximately 6*10^-34 as it is now), etc.

In short, the only reason that Eric gives for the universe being “fine-tuned” is because it exists and we exist. This is a very naive, yet understandable assumption, and I’ll give Eric credit for the fact that it is, in fact, irrefutable that there is any other universe that exists that can support life (of any kind) merely because this is the only universe we have access to and any case, refuting the fine-tuned argument, like refuting the existence of God, is impossible, and because of the same reason: you can’t refute what you can’t investigate. This inconvenient fact, I’m afraid, makes the fine-tuned argument completely moot. This refutation, by the way, is not something I just made up. I think I read it up on Talk Origins about 3 years ago when I just started reading about origin sciences (evolution and cosmology) and definitely before going to the university to study biology.

As an epilogue to my addressing of this particular argument, I would like to say that there is some creepy gullibility, and thus was I so intrigued by this argument, in the absolute faith that a universe that allows us to exist is a universe that was custom-made for our existence. It is an exercise in teleology that is so reminiscent of childish teleology (of the “trees exist so that we can hide from the rain” persuasion) that it bespeaks some psychological process that is way beyond my understanding. Maybe by investigating Eric’s reasoning and arguments about atheism and science, I will eventually learn more of why Eric thinks the way he does, or how he casually regresses to puerile teleology regarding something as mind-bogglingly imperceptible as the creation of the entire universe (assuming he doesn’t use that same teleology regarding trees as shelter for rain).

Introducing Eric Kemp’s blog – “Intelligent Science”

Eric Kemp has a blog called “Intelligent Science”. This caught my eye, of course, because as a science-enthusiast and an avid reader of science textbooks, popular science, science blogs and as a Biology major, I have a great interest in what science has to say about origins, life, etc.

This came up, by the way, by simply searching the keyword “Evolution” using the WordPress search engine.

What I did find in that blog was interesting, but not exactly what I had in mind.

Eric Kemp is a Christian. He is also a proud apologist and many of his posts bravely delve into Christian apologetics and, quite sadly, modern science. I came across two posts by Eric, the first was about Evolution of citrate-metabolism in E. coli. An ancient datum for anyone who’s spent any serious reading about evolution. It also contained his denial of this datum as anything helpful to the theory of evolution on a large-scale. This already exposed the fact that we’re dealing with a guy who’s had his science-classes in church.

Well, maybe I’m wrong about that. To give just one scary example, Johnathan Wells had a LOT of science-classes and not all of them were in church.

But I digress.

What really caught my eye in Eric’s blog was not his poor creationist reasoning (though I did reply to his post about evolution, addressing only one of his arguments). What caught my eye was the ease with which Eric disqualified any other God but the Christian God as the creator of the universe. Given, of course, that you’ve taken enough brainwash-time to disqualify methodological naturalism as the primary MO of science, forgotten entirely that arguments from design, arguments from ignorance and arguments from personal credulity are all ancient fallacies that have done magic in deluding the gullible for millenia —

Eric now gallantly exhibits his case for why God, which is his synonym for the obviously-apparent creator of all things, is the Christian God, and why Jesus, his son, proves it to be.

Since I’m a former Jew, and not a former Christian, I have one advantage and one disadvantage regarding Christian mythology. The advantage is that I’m exceptionally objective about the matter. I have no reason to be contemptuous or benign towards Christian mythology or Jesus, etc. The disadvantage is that I’m not very familiar with Christian apologetics (though I’m quite familiar with Jewish apologetics. I’m betting a dollar those two are quite similar, considering the fact that besides identifying the traditional Jewish Messiah as some Jew who lived 2000 years ago and was executed by the Romans, Christians are basically cast-out Jews. That the Jews are the extreme minority makes no difference)

Since Eric has provided so much blogging-fodder, and since my Word count has reached 950 words, I think I’m going to partition my interest in his blog post into seperate posts, starting with some blogging about his arguments regarding the “fine tuned universe” and the atheistic “creed” that everything in the universe has to be “random”.