Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Greatest Story Ever Told and Ignored / The Moral Imperative of Hell

Tyrone D. Williams, of Ex-Christians, tells us why his favourite story is The Wizard of Oz, tells us about another favourite story of his- "Bel and the Dragon", from the book of Daniel- and what it all has to do with the duplicity of religious belief.

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!,” the big-headed apparition bellows, but it is much too late. Dorothy and friends have already seen too much. The “Wizard” is nothing but an old man. A “humbug”, the Scarecrow calls him. They are disgusted and disappointed, and rightly so. All that bowing, scraping and serving – all of that WORSHIP – and it was all for nothing. A lousy trick.

Sound familiar? It should. How can a working, rational mind fail to see the corollary between this scene of revelation and how religion works in our world? How can you NOT see “the man behind the curtain”? What will you do now? Close your eyes and pretend you didn’t see him? Would that be very wise?

Nevyn O'Kane argues that nonbelief is the only moral alternative, even if God existed. Some people may argue with his conclusion, but it is difficult to argue with his reasoning, insofar as it goes:

If such a god is active, it appears that either belief is irrelevant to its activity or the activity is unrecognizable and thus cannot be justifiably attributed to an omni-God. The only morally just alternative then, is to seek the alleviation of suffering and the avoidance of torture in the material world as ends in themselves. Correspondingly, moral consistency would demand we behave as if the omni-God, who implicitly or explicitly sanctions suffering and torture in the afterlife, did not exist.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Austin Cline's Christian Propaganda Posters

Austin Cline of has an excellent collection of Christian Propaganda Posters that he created based on actual propaganda posters from various groups and governments of the last century. Here is one fine example:

Fuck Jesus - Literally

Austin has also begun blogging at Jesus' General every Sunday, talking about Christianity and displaying some of his wonderful posters. Check out his poster gallery, and his Sunday appearances at Jesus' General. You will not be disappointed.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I Got Tagged by KA!

My good friend KA from Biblioblography has tagged me with a book-reading meme. It took me a little while, but here are my answers. I took the liberty of listing some books more than once, and listing more than one book for some answers. Enjoy!

1.A book that changed your life

For better or worse? For worse, it has to be the Bible. I spent 17 years of my life feeding off that tome of mental feces. For better it has to be Atheism: A Reader, edited by S.T. Joshi. That book is just a great collection of letters, essays, and excerpts from some great thinkers on the topic of atheism. It blew my mind when I first read it.

2. A book you've read more than once

There aren't many books I've read more than once. But one of them is After Life by Simon Funk. That's a great book!

3. 1 book you'd want on a desert island

This one's easy. My choice is the same as KA's. The SAS Survival Guide.

4. 1 book that made you giddy

Atheist Universe by David Mills, because his writing style is so enjoyable for an atheist and/or lover of science.

5. 1 book you wish that had been written

A decent defense for the existence of God.

6. 1 book that made you sob

I don't think this has ever happened, but My Left Foot by Christy Brown came close.

7. 1 book you wish had never been written

All Abrahamic Scriptures, especially the Bible. Although I concede that if those hadn't been written, others would likely have taken their place.

8. 1 book you're currently reading

The Quran, and man is it a pain in the ass to get through! The damn book keeps putting me to sleep. I've been making sure to read it without washing my hands just out of spite for the retards that wrote it and the schizophrenics that believe it. The thing is more monotonous than a skipping record player. "Woe to the unbelievers!" Yes we understand that. Now what? "Great is the penalty that they incur!" Yea, yea, what else? Seriously! The degree to which the Quran vows after-life penalties for unbelievers just reeks of over-the-top insecurity about the validity of the truths that the book declares. It’s absolutely pathetic.

9. 1 book you've been meaning to read

The Book of Mormon. I read the intro parts where the witnesses attest to its divine nature and Mr. Smith describes how he received it, and the story is just so ridiculous that it discourages me from wasting my time reading the whole thing, but I'm determined to get through it sooner or later. I've also been told that the book says "And so it came to pass," more than Homer Simpson says "D'oh," and Imp sure that that will annoy me to no end once I dive into it.

Now comes the part where I tag others. I have decided to keep it consensual and hereby tag anyone who wishes to take up the challenge. If you like, simply make your own answers to the list, post them on your blog, and provide a link in the comments section here.

Question of the Day #65: Blue pill or red pill?

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." -Morpheus

"I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill?" -Cypher

Most of you if not all of you have probably seen "The Matrix". If you haven't, I will explain the scenario for this question. If you have, perhaps it might be best to pretend you haven't for the purpose of answering it.

You find yourself alone in a room with a man who is explaining to you that the world as you know it is an illusion. "You are a slave," he tells you. "Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind." He explains to you that now that he has shared this information with you, you have two options, and he holds out two pills towards you. If you take the red pill, you will wake up to reality. There's no gauarantee what that reality will be like, and in fact, it is likely to be far more unpleasant than "reality" as you currently know it, but once you have taken the pill, there is no turning back. If you take the blue pill, you will wake up in your bed, and all of the conversation will be like a dream, and will quickly be forgotten so that you can go about your life.

Which pill do you take, and why?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Icons of Evolution

This review of the documentary "Icons of Evolution" is cross-posted from my Evolution 101 transcript blog.

The documentary “Icons of Evolution” is a good representative of the current argument from those who have, in the past, argued against the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools. Although it was produced three years before the Dover trial, it’s argument amounts to essentially the “Teach the Controversy” approach which so many Evolution deniers have resorted to since that trial.

Without a doubt, it’s an effective way to frame the issue. And the documentary goes right for that from the beginning, by setting some common anti-evolutionary arguments in the context of an educator’s fight to teach “all the facts” about evolution to his students. Those of you from outside America may not be fully aware of how persuasive such an argument actually is- Americans take great pride in their freedom of speech, and the idea that any person should be able to voice their opinions on a subject, no matter what they are. They strongly believe in the concept of a marketplace of ideas, in which all points of view are, if not equally valid, at least given equal time. It’s this same mentality that, in my home city of Cincinnati, resulted in the display of a cross on Fountain Square at Christmas time, sponsored by the Ku Klux Klan. And I think, personally, that this is a mentality which should be supported- after all, what is the value of freedom if some voices are being silenced?

But this issue is not about silencing the voices of evolution deniers. There is no law that explicitly says that creationism cannot be taught in public schools- although the documentary tries its best to imply it. The educator in question whose struggle is the framing device for the documentary is Roger DeHart, who taught Biology and Earth Science at Burlington-Edison High School in Burlington, Washington. He got in trouble because, as the documentary says, he cared so much about his students that he wanted to teach them the truth about evolution. But Roger DeHart is no John Scopes. The documentary pushes very hard to cast him as the mirror image of the Tennessee teacher who was taken to trial for teaching evolutionary theory in the face of a law specifically prohibiting it. To quote from that law, the Butler Act: “that it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” I’m sure you can see that for the argument to be made that Roger DeHart is the modern-day mirror image of John Scopes is exactly what the evolution denial position does not want to admit. You see, this law was written with an explicit Christian bias, against which the teaching of science was an infraction. But if DeHart is mirroring John Scopes, then it follows that he is against the teaching of science, and instead seeks to teach his explicit Christian bias. Of course, this would never be admitted to by either Mr. DeHart or the evolution denial groups which have sponsored this documentary. And rightly so, because I don’t think DeHart is a modern juxtaposition of John Scopes in the slightest. DeHart was not charged with any crime. He was not taken to trial. He was, however, criticized by his community for teaching a deviation of the prescribed curriculum which was recognized at that time, and has been recognized officially and legally after the fact in Dover, Pennsylvania, as a specifically religious deviation. In fact, DeHart was examined as part of the Dover proceedings, and admitted that a significant part of his evolution lesson plan was derived from the book, “Of Pandas and People,” which was found to be a clear piece of educational propaganda of the evolution denial movement, and part of the evidence which sealed the decision at Dover against evolution denial. As a matter of fact, Mr. DeHart has admitted to evolution denial, belief in a young earth of less than 100,000 years old, and instead claims that a better explanation of the facts comes from the belief in a designer. That’s right- Intelligent Design raises its head.

Suddenly this issue seems a lot less like a lone science teacher wanting to take a stand to teach the honest truth about his subject, and more like someone with an ideological axe to grind. I don’t intend here to use ad hominem criticisms of Mr. DeHart or anyone else who is involved in this issue, but it strikes me as telling that the central player in this drama just happens to be teaching a curriculum that just happens to be aligned closer to his theological position than to accepted science. And ultimately his community found that telling as well- and criticized him for preaching his theological beliefs as science in the classroom to the point where he resigned (was not fired, but resigned) from his position and eventually ended up moving to California and teaching at Oaks Christian High School, where presumably, his desire to teach Intelligent Design is not a problem.

After setting up a sympathetic context to get the audience in the mindset to favor a “teach the controversy” approach, the documentary moves on to the meat of the issue, which is essentially attempting to trash evolutionary theory. The arguments that follow are from a book by Jonathan Wells, not coincidentally titled “Icons of Evolution.” Before I address those arguments, I think something needs to be said about Wells also. Again, I don’t want to engage in ad hominem criticisms, but it can be informative to know the biases of those to whom you’re listening. For example, you should know that my sources of bias are: I am a molecular biologist, taught that evolution is a fact of reality. I’m also an atheist, and so I have no compelling theological reason to reject evolutionary theory (or any other scientific theory, for that matter, but evolution is the subject here). So that’s my bias, and you have to, as the listener, take that for what it’s worth. I don’t believe that either my scientific training nor my lack of god-belief give me a particular axe to grind in regards to evolutionary theory- in fact, I’ve said before that even when I was a Christian and before I entered college, I didn’t think twice about accepting evolutionary theory. But I think it’s significant when a person not only has potential sources of bias, but admits them as responsible for his positions outright. Jonathan Wells is a theist, and a member of the Unification Church. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this denomination, they’re frequently called the “Moonies,” because they believe that their leader, Sun Myung Moon, is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, called by the Moonies themselves as “Father.” From Wells’ own words: At the end of the Washington Monument rally in September, 1976, I was admitted to the second entering class at Unification Theological Seminary. During the next two years, I took a long prayer walk every evening. I asked God what He wanted me to do with my life, and the answer came not only through my prayers, but also through Father's many talks to us, and through my studies. Father encouraged us to set our sights high and accomplish great things. He also spoke out against the evils in the world; among them, he frequently criticized Darwin's theory that living things originated without God's purposeful, creative activity. My studies included modern theologians who took Darwinism for granted and thus saw no room for God's involvement in nature or history; in the process, they re- interpreted the fall, the incarnation, and even God as products of human imagination. Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.”

Thus, Jonathan Wells sought out and earned a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology at Berkeley specifically to earn the credentials he felt were necessary to attack evolutionary theory from “within.” He did, in fact, publish two peer-reviewed papers as a graduate student on the subject of frog embryo development, but nothing else. After graduating, he was placed briefly in an unpaid postdoc position by his mentor Philip Johnson of the Discovery Institute, and then moved directly into a position there. He published the book “Icons of Evolution” in 2000. And as I mentioned, it is the arguments from this book which form the bulk of the documentary. I’ll go through them now, and explain what mistakes are made in the presentation of these arguments, and what the scientific evidence actually shows.

The arguments against evolutionary theory in the documentary, as in the book, attempt to undermine certain evidences that support evolutionary theory which are considered key, or defining evidences. Wells argues that these evidences are treated as icons, hence the title of the documentary and book. The implication is that if these icons can be undermined in some way, evolutionary theory as a whole is called into question. Even if this task was achieved, of course, this wouldn’t threaten evolutionary theory in the slightest- I’ve spoken at length about the molecular evidence for evolution, which is not considered by this documentary. Given just the molecular evidence, a substantial case could be made for evolutionary theory by itself.
The first icon is Haeckel’s embryos. I won’t go into detail about this argument, because I’ve already debunked it months ago, in podcast 107. If you remember that episode, you recall that Haeckel had advanced the hypothesis that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” Evolutionary biologists have since then rejected that hypothesis, although it is worth nothing that ontogeny does organize according to phylogeny- human embryos do have “gill slits” as Haeckel drew, it’s just that they don’t turn into actual gills. Incidentally, none of my biology textbooks from college have this image in them, although they did dedicate entire sections to explaining evolution. I find it somewhat odd that these embryo drawings could be honestly considered to be an “icon” of evolution when they didn’t even factor into my biological or evolutionary education in the slightest. In fact, the first that I had ever heard about them was through being exposed to attacks on evolution from people such as Jonathan Wells. It seems that the science has long since moved past the need for Haeckel’s embryos, but the evolution deniers have not.

The second icon is Darwin’s finches. As I’ve mentioned in a previous podcast, Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos islands as part of his voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle, and although he wasn’t particularly interested in the different finch species while he was there, they did influence the development of his theory of natural selection when he had returned to England. Of particular note to Darwin was the size of the beaks of the various species, and how they correlated to the availability and size of seeds as a food source. According to Darwin, these species of finch were evidence for adaptive radiation, meaning that one finch species had been introduced to the islands at some point in the past, and the forces of natural selection among the different islands had caused speciation from that original population. What’s curious to me is that, in the documentary, no criticism is directly made against the finches themselves, the fact that their beak size changes in response to environmental changes, or even that this process can be observed. What happens is that Wells makes the argument that these changes cannot be extrapolated into actual speciation- instead, he says, it represents a kind of cyclic variation within the different populations of finches. Specifically, that since beak size changes in a way which correlates to changes in the environment, a population with a larger beak during drought reverts back to a population with a smaller beak during good rainfall. In other words, he’s making the argument that Darwin’s finches represent microevolution, and not macroevolution. Again, this is a subject that I’ve covered before, in podcast 102. There is no mechanistic difference between micro and macroevolution, just differences in scale. Beside the fact that there is a clearly observed mechanism for physiological change in the finches, morphological comparisons demonstrate that macroevolution has indeed occurred.

The documentary then moves on to the fruit fly. Fruit flies have long been used in studies of genetics because they are small, grow very fast, reproduce in large numbers, and have a small number of chromosomes. Also, the techniques for manipulating fruit fly genes have been around for a long time and are well established, so there’s a pragmatic aspect to using them as a model. In addition, they’re not vertebrates, so there’s not as much bureaucratic red tape associated with growing them in a laboratory compared to, say, mice and rats. In the documentary, the argument is made that although genetic change can be induced in the laboratory, the phenotypic results of these changes are not the kind which confer any kind of selective advantage. For example, fruit flies can be induced to grow an extra set of wings. In the documentary, these four-winged flies are shown buzzing around ineffectively, hampered by the extra, non-functional wings, and unable to survive normally, without being in the laboratory. The argument is then made that since this mutation actually makes the fruit fly’s life more difficult, then it is not a selective advantage and is not evidence for evolution. This kind of argument is typically referred to as a “straw man,” because it addresses a position not claimed by its opponent, which is roughly equivalent to picking a fight with someone, but instead of fighting them directly, building a straw dummy of that person, and then beating up the straw man. No geneticist has ever claimed to my knowledge that the mutations induced in the fruit fly in a laboratory setting have ever been an example of a speciation. That’s not why fruit flies are important, and this really troubles me about the documentary that it could take such an incorrect view of a basic model organism like the fruit fly. Fruit fly mutations aren’t important in and of themselves as an example of speciation- they’re nothing more than phenotypic markers, visible signals that show when a gene has been altered in some way. What the fruit fly has contributed is the basic understanding of genetics- by observing the frequency and heritability of the mutations that are induced, geneticists have been able to learn a great deal about how genes function in all organisms. I don’t think any geneticist actually set out to “evolve” a new species from fruit flies. That might be interesting, but not nearly as interesting as learning how genes function within organisms. So this “icon” really doesn’t support the overall argument of the documentary. Of course a four-winged fruit fly would be selected against in the wild- this explains why fruit flies have not evolved with four wings.

The documentary then moves on to the concept of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. This “icon” is kind of a mix between Darwin’s finches and the fruit fly in concept. Just as with the finches, the argument is made that selective changes revert back to a preexisting population genotype, and just as with the fruit flies, these changes are charged with not being examples of speciation. And as you would expect, the rebuttal to both these points remains the same as before, so I won’t belabor it. But briefly, the selection of bacteria by environmental condition (presence or absence of an antibiotic) is absolutely the mechanism of change that is posited by evolutionary theory- so I’m not sure what the problem is here. The fact that the bacteria lose antibiotic resistance when the antibiotic is removed from their environment isn’t an argument against evolution- it completely supports it. When any selective pressure is removed from a population, evolution is going to favor those members of the population which can reproduce best in the absence of that pressure. And when antibiotics are concerned, those bacteria which are not resistant reproduce much better, because antibiotic resistance comes at a metabolic price. And no microbiologist has ever claimed to be interested in creating new species of bacteria simply by adding or removing an antibiotic. So again, this is a straw man.

The next attack is on the concept of homology as evidence for common descent. Not homology per se, it’s pretty tough to refute the actual homology that exists between different organisms, even for a documentary as obtuse as this one. Instead, they make the argument that structures that share homology between different organisms should also share a genetic basis for that homology, if common descent is correct. They then look at the fruit fly again, and compare it to the wasp. The body segments, they say, are considered to be homologous, but instead of being controlled by the same gene, they are controlled by different genes. Thus, biologists cannot explain homologous structures that are caused by different genes. First of all, yes biologist can explain them- it’s called convergent evolution. This is the idea that selective forces experienced by different organisms are similar enough that, in certain situations, different organisms can “come up with” the same evolutionary solution to a selective problem. For example, the wings of birds and bats are an example of convergent evolution- bats did not evolve from birds, and in fact, if you go back to the nearest shared common ancestor between bats and birds, you find no wings at all. So both birds and bats evolved wings independently, as separate but very similar solutions to the problem of how to achieve powered flight. Going back to the fruit fly and wasp- this really isn’t an example of convergent evolution in my mind, but it’s awfully hard to tell, because the documentary doesn’t even give the name of the gene that supposedly is different between the two species. So there’s no way to verify if what they’re claiming is true. What I do know is that there have been several mutant genes identified in wasps which affect the development of body segmentation which are different from the mutations characterized in fruit flies, but this is no problem either, since fruit flies diverged from wasps over 200 million years ago, and we would expect some divergent evolution during that time. So once again, a straw man.

The final so-called “icon” of evolution is the “tree of life”, which is a metaphorical concept used by evolution to explain the relationships between all organisms. The argument that is used in the documentary is one that is based on a fundamental misconception of evolution that is actually pretty common among evolution deniers. The tree of life is not some kind of teleological necessity- in other words, the relationships between different organisms are not necessarily a reflection of the progression of time. That is, as time marches on, the number of species in existence does not necessarily increase. In fact, if anything, the number of species in total existence has decreased- millions upon millions of species have gone extinct over time, and species are constantly going extinct even today. So the idea that the tree of life is one which is small on one end and large on the other isn’t really an evolutionary necessity. Certainly, at some point in the history of life, the number of species was very very small. But once life was able to diversify, it did so without question, and the rest of biological history has been a refinement of that diversity, as different species compete for resources. The documentary focuses on the so-called Cambrian “explosion,” as a contradiction of its own assumptions about evolutionary history. Yes, you guessed it, another straw man. The argument says that since there were so many species in existence during the Cambrian period, and since this happened so quickly, it contradicts evolutionary theory. Well, first of all the Cambrian explosion did not happen overnight. Nor did it happen over seven days. It occurred over a range of time between 490 and 550 million years ago. And there are many explanations for the wide diversity of animal groups found within Cambrian rock, all of which are consistent with evolutionary theory. One explanation is that, it was only during the Cambrian period that organisms had evolved which contained body parts that lent themselves well to fossilization. Imagine, for example, if newspapers started to be printed on plastic sheets, instead of paper sheets. The plastic newspapers would be thrown away at about the same rate as the paper newspapers, but they wouldn’t degrade as readily. Thousands of years in the future, I could imagine a team of archaeologists unearthing a garbage dump from the early 21st century and wondering how strange it was that people suddenly started reading newspapers after the turn of the millennium. Another possibility is that environmental oxygen levels had not yet become high enough to promote the evolution of animals into any degree of complexity or diversity. Another explanation is that severe environmental and weather changes on the Earth at that time affected the chemistry of the oceans, promoting wide diversity and evolution of the organisms there. And a recent explanation involves the genes that have been characterized by Evo-Devo (which I’ve mentioned before) such as the Hox genes, which may represent the minimum requirement genetically for the development of wide diversity. It’s possible that these genes or prototype versions of these genes had developed by the Cambrian period allowing for a genetic basis of the kind of diversity seen in Cambrian fossils today.

The documentary is capped off again by an appeal to the audience’s sense of fairness, and an appeal to do the best thing for our students by teaching them the “full story” of evolution. Again, this is a strategy which has a lot of sympathy with the average person, especially here in America, but it just doesn’t hold up. I have shown here and others have shown elsewhere and much more detailed than myself that the so-called “rest of the story” that the evolution deniers want to be taught does not represent an accurate scientific argument. Are we really doing our children any favors by teaching them material in the science classroom that is demonstrably not science? Should we teach astrology to our children, to give them the “full story” about astronomy? Should we teach alchemy, to give the “full story” about chemistry? The power of science lies not just in the information that it adds to our body of knowledge, but in the information that it removes from it. Make no mistake, evolutionary theory is a scientific theory, like it or not. The only controversy that needs to be taught is the public controversy that should serve as a warning to everyone that science can and will be threatened by those who place ideology above reality.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Review: "After Life," by Simon Funk

About a month ago, a commenter by the name of Simon Funk stopped by my other blog, Kill The Afterlife, to say hello, and to mention that he had just finished writing and publishing a book, "After Life." I decided to give the book a read, and boy am I glad I did.

Simon Funk is a man of many talents. In addition to being a writer and an all around great thinker, he is also a man who works in the field of Artificial Intelligence, or A.I. And that's what his book, After Life, is about. You see, Simon Funk's book isn't about an immaterial dimension that ghosts go to after their bodies die (a dimension which the title of my other blog demands be destroyed), but it is about continuing one's consciousness outside of one's biological body here in the real world. And that is an idea that I wholly support.

The book is written in first-person, through the eyes of the main character, Alex Harris, PhD. Alex has just figured out how to transfer one's consciousness from a biological brain into a man-made computer. He performs the procedure on himself, and as a result, the entire world is changed. Perhaps the most significant change, though, occurs in Alex's own consciousness.

After transferring his consciousness to a machine, Alex experiences a series of unusual events. Some of these events seem like dreams, and some seem all too real. At first, the experiences are very puzzling to the reader (and to Alex himself), and don't make sense. But as the story unfolds, the pieces fall into place and produce a very mind-blowing cohesive picture.

Simon Funk is a very skilled writer. His writing is very personal and involving; I felt like I was Alex himself trying to make sense of the strange situations he kept finding himself to be in. But Simon Funk is not afraid to dig deep into the technological, philosophical, and ethical questions that naturally arise when consciousness, identity, and life itself are permanently altered.

Simon Funk also knows his stuff when it comes to Artificial Intelligence. His writing incorporates technological concepts used in today's A.I. field, yet he presents the ideas in a way that just about any reader can grasp. Simon also provides a familiar, human perspective to these ideas. What the reader ends up getting is an excellent mix of technological, philosophical, ethical, and emotional perspectives on the main character and his story. Allow me to quote a passage from chapter 1:

What makes the process tolerable is that half the drugs we're using are devoted entirely to protecting the brain. Specifically, we completely halt the processes that normally lead to the physical changes underlying the formation of memories. In effect the brain is held in a sort of chemical deep freeze, a state immune to change, but still able to function in a purely reactionary way. Other drugs keep the necessary neurotransmitters and nutrients replenished, and also keep the level of spontaneous activity as low as possible. This latter point would amount to keeping the subject unconscious, except that we then go in and light up their brain with activity much as if they were conscious, but completely under our control. In some sense, we have drugged their will to sleep, closed their eyes and ears, and replaced all of that with a machine that decides exactly what they're going to think, see, hear and feel in each moment. Yes--some day this could lead to the ultimate virtual reality experience, but that's a long time off. Right now there's no real coherent thinking or experience going on. We don't know nearly enough, nor have the compute power, to do that. Right now, it's just a random nightmare of disconnected thoughts, feelings, and sensations, experienced in rapid fire succession and immediately and forever forgotten. But that's enough--that's enough, I believe, for us to reconstruct the mind within the brain.

So, why am I talking about carburetors and grandmothers instead of cheese and mazes, considering we've only really done this with a mouse? Because I've been having nightmares about this for days. Because...I am going to have it done to me. Or maybe I already have.

As you can see, both the story and the writing style in Simon Funk's After Life are delectable.

My one gripe about this book is that it was too short. The book is 25 chapters, and in printed form it is only 160 pages. I literally tore through it as fast as I could, and the end of the story came all too quickly for me. But isn't that what happens with most good books? In addition, the book is short because it's writing style. While it gives you significant morsels of the story, it skips a few details here and there. This was obviously done deliberately as a way of leaving certain things unsaid so that the reader can either fill in the blanks with their imagination, or be left with questions in their head to ponder. This book definitely makes you think, no question about it.

Simon Funk's After Life is an all around excellent book. I can't remember the last time I read a fiction book that got the gears in my head to turn so much. I also forwarded the book to my good friend David Mills, author of the #1 bestseller Atheist Universe, and Mills had nothing but praise for Simon and his book.

I therefore highly recommend that you read After Life by Simon Funk. I also recommend that you purchase the book from Lulu. Simon is currently selling his book from Lulu at cost, so it will only cost you around 8 bucks, and it comes with a beautifully designed cover (also created by the author), and good production quality. I suggest you buy it now while the price is low, because I have been repeatedly trying to convince Simon to sell it for a profit (hey, I am a capitalist).

Finally, be sure to tell your friends about the book, as right now word-of-mouth is the only form of advertising being used to promote it, and the word definitely needs to get out about this excellent book.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

American Christians Invade Canada

Austin Cline of has a great post about Christian Evangelicals trying to bring Jesus back to the lives of the average Canadian. Their primary target? Montreal. Austin Cline has a few thoughts on the matter:

It's a shame that American Christians think that they have to change Canadians to more closely match their own religious behaviors, but hopefully they'll be able to resist.

I hope that those evangelical hosers fail miserably. I also hope that the Canadian border patrol refuses them entry.

Steve Irwin: Jesus Sucks, Mate!

It had to happen sooner or later. Some creationist wackos started spreading a rumor that the Crocodile Hunter converted to Christianity two weeks before he died.

Thanks to Snopes, the falsity of this rumor has been confirmed.

Why do Christians want to make these kinds of rumors? Do they think that the truth won't be found out? Do atheists, for example, try to spread rumors that recently deceased priests deconverted to atheism just before they died?

Reformed Apologetics: Defunct and Disillusioned

I chanced across an interesting post by Mark (tartanarmy) at the Unchained Radio forums. In a thread discussing whether atheists could comprehend absolute truth, he burst out with the following:

I don't see how we can communicate with Atheists. How does that work? I know “evidentialism” is an inferior type of apologetic argument, but is not the presup stuff useless too?
I mean, with the “noetic” effects and all, where does it lead us?
I can see his point. If you assume that everyone who disagrees with you is necessarily mentally handicapped, what's the point of evangelizing? Well... because God tells them to, apparently.

I think we should just believe in scripture, quote it, and leave the results in God's hands.
I also believe we need to get involved, interact with these guys and just be a witness to them as much as is possible, that they may come to be convicted and own their sin.
I'm not sure how "being a witness" is supposed to help. Supposedly, hearing the Gospel message is all it takes to cause conviction.

Am I way off beam here, or what?
I know the TAG and other well thought out stuff makes them look stupid, but what’s the point? We know that already from scripture before we even engage them.

I don't think I need to comment on the idea of the TAG being classified as "well thought out."

Help me understand. I keep waiting to see them reduced to the point where they kind of get it, but it never happens. I keep waiting to see if they then try to defend their position from an internal critique of it, but it never happens, nor do they ever even seem remotely interested in finding out how we critique other kinds of religious beliefs.

I am a bit disillusioned. Please give me some advice about this?
Dustin?, Gene? Paul? What say you fine guys?
If I could offer some input- maybe the reason why we atheists aren't "reduced" to Christianity is because we actually have some good reasons for rejecting Christian claims. I know this is hard to accept and understand when you have to assume that atheists don't exist in the first place, but such is your travail.

I kinda feel sorry for the guy. It makes me think of someone in a mental hospital, depressed, and saying, "What's the point of even trying to muster the troops if nobody in here believes I'm actually Napoleon?"

Left Behind: Eternal Forces Demo

Remember that Left Behind video game I mentioned a while ago? Well, the game’s producers have released a beta version for demo, and I was compelled to download and play it, to see if it lived up to the hype.

The game begins with a brief animation intro for the logo of their brand, Left Behind games. The camera opens on a view of Earth from high orbit, and begins panning around its circumference as tiny streaks of light rise from the surface, gather into what can only be considered a flock, and shoot out into space. I can only assume that this is a representation of what the Rapture will look like, although the number of “souls” is a lot smaller that I would have expected (a couple hundred), but maybe Jesus is more of a stickler than I thought he was. Incidentally, is “flock” the correct term for a group of souls? I guess souls are close enough to angels for a group of them to be called a “host,” but I prefer a “collective” of souls. At any rate, the shimmering streaks of light all head out into space (what planet, exactly is Heaven?) and thus the game begins.

If you’re at all familiar with the Left Behind books or the Left Behind movie franchise, then you probably know what to expect in terms of production value: pretty good, but nothing terribly special. Left Behind in all its media incarnations seems to be a quality equivalent of a just-below-professional job. A lot of this has to do with, in my opinion, the poor writing that began this whole enterprise, and yet I know that a good film can be made from a bad book, and likewise with a video game. This is somewhat disappointing, because Christian eschatology can be pretty exciting stuff, and I could easily see a compelling story being made out of any of the many scenarios envisioned for the End Times.

The game itself follows in this tradition of slightly-below-average. The graphics are three-dimensional, and sufficiently detailed to be engaging, but are nothing more advanced than what existed in games five years ago. The control system is typical of a real-time simulation game- left click on a unit to select it, right click on a location of the screen to make him move there. There’s a control panel at the bottom of the screen, with a minimap, unit stats, items, and actions, and game options. Action is set in a post-Raptured New York City, and so you’re going to be staring down at buildings most of the time.

The demo allows you to play the tutorial (unnecessary if you’ve played this type of game before), and three levels of the Story Mode. The levels themselves are really boring, as is somewhat typical of the beginning of a game, so I’ll just summarize the plot and then I can talk about some of the more amusing aspects. You control a newly-minted Christian (the only kind available following the Rapture) who’s filled with the spirit and working for the Tribulation Force. (As an aside, the game goes to the extra trouble of clarifying that the Tribulation Force are, in fact, the “good” guys, and the Global Peacekeepers are the “bad” guys. With names like those, the clarification is necessary) You spend the beginning of the game recruiting other Christians to your cause, founding a base of operations, and protecting that base from the bad guys.

At first, you’re the lone Christian in New York (or, at least, on the screen). Everyone else on the map is either neutral or evil. As a level 1 disciple, you can convert any neutral person to Christianity just by preaching at them. Just walk up to them and click on the “convert” button, and shards of white light will fall down from above onto their head, and within a few seconds they become a Christian. This is accompanied by an increase in their “Spirit” attribute- an attribute that, as a Christian, can be increased simply by prayer, and can be decreased by simply listening to rock music. Post-conversion, their costume changes- most neutral characters walk around wearing jeans, a sports jacket, and a sports cap. Once they’ve converted to Christianity, however, there’s a brief flash and they’re wearing khakis, a button-up shirt, and a sweater vest. Oh, and each one looks the same. And if you select a group of Christians to control, they all speak in unison. Kinda creepy, if you ask me.

Once you have your new recruits, you can use them to expand your power. But you have to be careful- if their Spirit level drops too low, they may revert to neutrality again- the game frowns on that. The best way to keep them Christians is to force them to pray pretty constantly, or send them to a church where they can get a Bible, which gives them a twenty-point boost. While they’re praying, you can take a look at their life story- even though each Christian looks exactly the same, each one has a unique 300-word life story, detailing their religious background and how they were affected by the Rapture. After that, send them off to be trained for the Tribulation Force. This involves purchasing buildings and converting them for your purposes- but first, you need Builders. These can be trained by sending Christians to your initial camp. Interestingly, Builders seem to be a male-only class; no converted Christian women can be trained as Builders, nor it seems as anything else worthwhile. The only vocation available to the fairer sex was as a medic, but since this was a redundant position (males could be trained as medics also), I eventually quit proselytizing women, since they were completely worthless to my cause.

Builders can build housing(apartments or high-rise complexes), offices(banks or mission bases), churches(chapels or big churches), cafes, and military training camps. These can only be built in those buildings that are already compatible with those specific uses, so you have to look around for them. Once you have your infrastructure in place, you can really put those converted Christians to good use. Train them as Disciples (go out and convert more neutrals), musicians (use the power of song to weaken evil influence), Medics (heal physical damage), and Soldiers (shoot guns and kill the enemy).

The enemy has these same positions available, but just in “evil” form. For example, whereas the Tribulation Force employs Musicians which go out and sing Christian music (Stephen Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith, I assume), the Global Peacekeeper Force employs Musicians which go out and play rock music (Black Sabbath and Bad Religion, I assume). Such a tactic seems fruitless to most, but bear in mind that “spiritual” warfare is an important component of the game, and so the music one hears does influence one’s Spirit level. For example, I kept losing one level because my character, a Christian Disciple, had to walk past a group of street toughs playing rock music, and having to listen to it made him forcibly deconvert into neutrality, failing the mission.

Having such a strong spiritual component in the game raises problems, because most Christians consider things spiritual to be immaterial, and thus invisible, or at least unable to be represented by natural means. However, this is a video game, so a certain amount of visual panache is expected- this is why actions of spiritual import are much flashier than in real life. As I mentioned already, the act of conversion causes shards of white light to fall on the head of the proselyte, and after the conversion is complete, a bright glow surrounds the Disciple and new Christian, presumably as more spiritual wisdom is imparted. Likewise, whenever a Christian is engaged in prayer, in addition to folding his hands and bending his head, a white glowing ball of light appears above his head. Similar displays are made apparent when Musicians sing, although there is a difference in color between the “good” and “evil” sides. I certainly don’t need to point out that it would be awfully nice if these obvious markers were present in the real world whenever Christians engaged in prayer, or witnessed to unbelievers. I can’t tell if this represents wishful thinking on the part of the game developers, or a real assumption about how obvious spirituality is to Christians.

Although it’s tough to appraise a full game based on a beta, I doubt my opinion would change much even if I was able to play the whole thing. By the last demo level, I was so bored that I probably wouldn’t want to play the rest of the levels anyway. It seems harmless enough to me, and likely represents (just as do the books) the psychological yearnings of some Christians for comeuppance.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Question of the day #64: Legalize it!

Are there any drugs that are currently illegal that you think should be made legal or vice-versa?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Jesus Camp

A documentary has been made on a summer camp designed to turn Christian youth into future preachers and "soldiers in God's army."

The trailer can be found here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Russian Orthodoxy, Madonna, and Jesus

Madonna has pissed off the Christian Church in Russia with her planned musical performance which includes her singing a song while strapped to a cross:

"I think a deeply believing person would never go to the concert," the Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, told Associated Press Television News.

"This lady ... plays with religious symbols, and I think it's not only a matter of financial advancement of her production but it's also a kind of attempt to justify and sanctify her message and her sins, using something holy."

Don't get your hopes up, Rev. Vsevolod. I seriously doubt that Madonna is sanctifying her message through a little cross-play. It is more likely that she is trying to degrade Christianity rather than sanctify her own message. I don't think that Madonna considers Christianity to be something that can "sanctify" anything; I don't think she holds it on a pedastal (at least not anymore).

I saw Madonna perform at Coachella earlier this year. She was amazing. Her show did much more to uplift my spirit than reading the book of Matthew ever did. Reading the about the flood, or the crucifixion, or the massacre of some random tribe, doesn't make one want to dance in a celebration of life the way that watching Madonna perform does.

But let's look more closely at the whole Madonna/Jesus/cross thing. Christian churches around the world get really pissy if anyone other than Jesus, or His likeness, is impaled on said torture device. They really don't want Madonna or Marilyn Manson or any other person to ever be displayed on a cross, under any circumstances it seems to me.

Why is that? Is it because of some worshipping/idol factor? Here are a few questions that I have come up with to ask Christians who object to the Madonna/cross thing. I invite both Christians and atheists (and everyone in between) to think about the questions below and what the Christian response to each of them would likely be:

1. Is there any instance where a person other than Jesus could be depicted on a cross which you would approve of?

2. What if Madonna instead took a cross on to the stage and smashed it to pieces? How would you interpret this act?

And perhaps the most important question of all:

3. If you went back in time to when Jesus was alive, and you had the opportunity to prevent his execution on the cross, would you prevent it or not?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Question of the Day #63: Terrorism

Earlier this year, I rather enjoyed the movie "V for Vendetta", having read the book years before and not being disappointed by the movie adaptation. Before seeing the movie, I had read one bad review of it, but that review seemed to be giving thumbs down not to the movie itself so much as the concept of a movie hero that was essentially a terrorist. In the "post-9/11 world", this sort of hero had no place for this reviewer. I disagreed, and not even necessarily just on the level of artistic statement.

Is it possible that terrorism is ever justified?

Fuck: A definitive analysis

Christopher Fairman, an Associate Professor of Law at Ohio State's Moritz College of Law has recently written an excellent historical and legal analysis of the word, "fuck." An excerpt from the introduction to his article:

This Article explores the intersection of the word fuck and the law. In four major areas, fuck impacts the law: First Amendment, broadcast regulation, sexual harassment, and education. The legal implications from the use of fuck vary greatly with the context. However, to fully understand the legal power of fuck, the nonlegal sources of its power must be tapped. Drawing upon the research of etymologists, linguists, lexicographers, psychoanalysts, and other social scientists, the visceral reaction to fuck can be explained by cultural taboo.

Fuck is a taboo word. According to psycholinguists, its taboo status is likely due to our deep, subconscious feelings about sex. The taboo is so strong that it compels many to engage in self-censorship. However, refraining from the use of fuck only reinforces the taboo. In the process, silence empowers small segments of the population to manipulate our rights under the guise of reflecting a greater community. Taboo is then institutionalized through law, yet at the same time is in tension with other identifiable legal rights. Understanding this relationship between law and taboo ultimately yieldsfuck jurisprudence. However, all the attempts to curtail the use of fuck through law are doomed to fail. Fundamentally, fuck persists because it is taboo, not in spite of it.

The article can be downloaded free here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Moron and a Smartie

This post is about a moron and a smartie. The moron is Russell Shaw, of the Huffington Post, whose article "Tom Cruise's Firing: Anti-Scientology Religious Bigotry" does not quite get the point, and veers into the ludicrous...

"Cult" charges against Scientology often stem from a cursory analysis of their beliefs about aliens, Thetans, and all that. But when I think about scriptural assertions such as the world being created in six days, the Red Sea being parted, the Immaculate Conception, heaven and hell, and magic plates that contain inscriptions of a revisiting Messiah, I wonder just what it is about Scientology that is laughable to so many who embrace or tolerate some of the other canon I have just mentioned.

Therefore, what is the natural conclusion, Russell? That Scientology and Christianity are both bullshit and that we should laugh at them?

Between the lines, otherwise tolerant people are saying between the lines.."weird religion," "dumb actor."

But in mocking adherents of any religion, you only mark yourselves as intolerant hypocrites.


The smartie, Caron Cadle, gives us a modest proposal: abolish the afterlife!

That's why I feel haunted by the afterlife. The belief in an individual, personal, eternal ever-after, in either "heaven" or "hell," has been used for thousands of years by ruling classes of whatever ilk as a rationale for oppression and exploitation of the vast majority of people. If "the meek" -- read, the poor -- the disadvantaged, the oppressed really believe it will be "their turn" in some vague, glorious post-apocalyptic by-and-by, they are far more likely to resign themselves to the inferior, unpleasant place they occupy now.
I suggest we stop betting our present lives on a non-existent future one. Let's not hate ourselves any longer. Let's not deny ourselves the beauty and happiness of mortal existence for fear of post-mortem punishment for being human. And let's not accept the unacceptable on the assumption that some pre-programmed variety of bliss lies beyond death's door.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Even Stephen

Friday, September 08, 2006

The difference between a proposition and its contents

I find that many people get confused in this area- the difference between a proposition and its contents. This confusion usually comes in the form of "if you're a strong atheist, doesn't that mean you have to be certain about the non-existence of God?", accompanied by a statement that strong atheism is dogmatic and therefore must be rejected.

Let's start with an easy example:

P1: I fervently believe that God exists.

Well, I think I'm pretty confident about that proposition, since it's part of my mental makeup and that's pretty accessible to me. The proposition itself states that God exists, with no qualification, so it's a strong proposition. We can rephrase both judgments like this:

P2: I am 100% confident in the belief that God exists.

This is trivial since there is no confusion in P1. But now look at this example:

P3: I am not so confident that God exists.

Now there is a difference. We have a difference between the belief and the person's confidence in it. This could be a "crisis of faith" of some sort. Either way, we can rephrase P3 as such:

P4: I am 50% confident that God exists.

Is this incoherent? Not at all. Even though "God exists" is a categorical statement, one does not need to believe it fully. Someone can have a crisis of faith about a very categorical statement of this kind. Does that mean no one has a crisis of faith, ever? Of course not.

So the following proposition must also be accepted:

P5: I am 50% confident that God does not exist.

Propositions such as P4 and P5 need not be crises of faith. They can also be the expression of a lack of information, or a desire not to explore the question too much. Now take a statement of agnosticism such as:

P6: I am fully confident that we should have no confidence whatsoever about the existence or non-existence of God.

Confusing? Once again remember the difference between the proposition and our confidence in it. In this case, our proposition is "we should have no confidence whatsoever about the existence or non-existence of God". The person is expressing full confidence in that proposition. He is quite certain that no one knows what they're talking about.

So there is no contradiction here. In all cases, there is a clear distinction between "what a person believes" and "how confident he is about it". One can hold categorical beliefs about which one is uncertain, and one can hold uncertain beliefs about which one is categorical.

Strong atheism, therefore, is not inherently dogmatic. It is possible to be certain, almost certain, uncertain, or lukewarm about the propositions "God does not exist" or "gods do not exist". But as long as you say them, you are a strong atheist. That's all that it means to believe in something.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Question of the Day #62: Atheist = Intelligent?

I recently read Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. In the book, I found this interesting quote:

"Ninety-nine percent of everything that goes on in most Christian churches has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual religion. Intelligent people all notice this sooner or later, and they conclude that the entire one hundred percent is bullshit, which is why atheism is connected with being intelligent in people's minds."

What do you think of this observation?

The Coolest Thing Ever


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mother of Crash Survivor: It was not God

James Polehinke, the sole survivor of a recent airplane crash in Lexington, Kentucky, attributes his newfound predicament to the almighty hand of God:

One of the first full sentences he said after regaining consciousness was, "Why did God do this to me?"

Polehinke has suffered major injuries from the unfortunate crash. He currently can only move his head, and until recently was on a ventilator. He also has a collapsed lung and has suffered many broken bones.

While it wasn't exactly clear if he was criticizing or praising God, the article says that he, "has questioned his relationship with God." This, combined with Polehinke's earlier quote, seems to imply that he has been viewing God in a critical light.

But of course, God didn't have anything to do with it. Fortunately, Polehinke's mother knows as much:

It was not God. It was just an accident.

Look at what happens when God is believed in, and an accident happens. It's God's "judgment" in some way. People of faith that experience accidents usually have some kind of huge moral crises afterwards. They often believe that God had a hand in it in some way, and either they condemn him and seethe with anger over their suffering, or praise him and feel all guilty because they survived.

But when accidents and natural disasters are properly attributed to their natural causes, the people involved will take the correct action to lower the chances of suffering. Either they learn to operate the airport or airplane more safely, or they learn to build storm shelters, or they learn to make levees that don't break (hopefully).

On the other hand, if accidents and natural disasters are instead mistakenly attributed to God and His Holy Word, then the corrective action that the people take will not increase safety in future instances. Following the Ten Commandments will not reduce your chances of being hurt in an accident or natural disaster.

I mean come on! Who seriously thinks that they are less likely to die in a plane crash if they stop eyeballing their neighbor's wife, or start honoring their parents more?

It's Better Down Under

Australia, and Australians in general, have always been on a pedestal of sorts in my mind. They have cooler sports cars. They invented the Melbourne Shuffle, which is a dope-ass dance move. The late Steve Irwin is from Australia. And my favorite rock band of all time, TOOL, has gone on record stating that their Australian fans are more intelligent and understanding of their music and message.

That is some impressive "street cred" in my opinion. And the long list of dope Australian facts has just gained another entry. Less than half of Australia's youth believe in God! While it is true that this link is from a British secularism website, please note that the study was a three-year-long joint effort between Monash University, the Australian Catholic University, and the Christian Research Association. If anyone wants Australian youth to be theistic, it's these sponsors. Indeed, they didn't expect these results:

The study, The Spirit of Generation Y, found just 48 per cent of those born between 1976 and 1990, believed in a god. Dr Andrew Singleton, of Monash University, a co-author of the study, said they were surprised by the findings. “It’s well known that there has been a turn away from church attendance and participation in young people,” he said. “But we thought there was going to be a move towards alternative spiritualities. There are still a number turning towards it, but not as big as you would have thought.”

Emphasis mine.

I wonder just how bummed out the top cheeses in those universities are after spending all that time and money on the study just to find out that the youth are snubbing their superstitious wrinkly asses? And it seems implied that these study sponsors would rather have the Aussie youngsters be into alternative spiritualities than straight-up atheists. If that's the case, then I'm glad that they were disappointed.

Australia looks to have a very bright future. Okay, can I please marry some hot Australian atheist girl who rocks to TOOL, drives a Ford GT-P, and busts out the Melbourne Shuffle on the dance floor now?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Religion-Related Fraud Getting Worse

According to ReligionNewsBlog, religion-related fraud is getting worse. This came as a bit of a surprise to me, because after reading only the title of the article I thought to myself, "What, the fraudulent claim of God existing somehow got even grander in scale?!"

But after reading into the article, I realized that they were talking about monetary fraud:

Billions of dollars has been stolen in religion-related fraud in recent years, according to the North American Securities Administrators Association, a group of state officials who work to protect investors.

Between 1984 and 1989, about $450 million was stolen in religion-related scams, the association says. In its latest count - from 1998 to 2001 - the toll had risen to $2 billion. Rip-offs have only become more common since.

"The size and the scope of the fraud is getting larger," said Patricia Struck, president of the securities association and administrator of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Division of Securities. "The scammers are getting smarter and the investors don't ask enough questions because of the feeling that they can be safe in church."

A fool and his money are soon parted.

But a few thoughts come to mind. For example, if self-professed Christians are correct, and atheists are fools, then I wonder if atheist-related scams are also getting worse? Or maybe it's the other way around, and the Christians who are getting scammed are actually atheists?

The end of the article has a line that I found incredibly ironic and amusing:

"Money has a way of blinding objectivity, even for we who are believers," Minkow says.

Excuse me while milk shoots out my nose!

But seriously, just about any way you spin it, this is a good sign for us anti-superstition folk. This is just one more major problem that organized religion in America faces. Let's go over some of the more important crises facing organized religion in America today:

1. Churches all across America are closing their doors due to decreased patronage.
2. They are importing preachers from third-world countries because not enough native-born Americans want the job.
3. They are filing for bankruptcy to protect themselves from kiddie-rape lawsuits.
4. They are weathering scathing criticism from various District Attorneys offices over their priest-protectionism tactics.
5. And on top of all this, their coffers are now being sucked dry by scammers at rates never before seen.

All I can say in response is, "Glory, glory, hallelujah!"

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I Finally Took the Politics Test

I Finally took the OkCupid politics test. I only answered "strongly disagree" or "strongly agree" on all the answers, and most of them I answered with the former. The reason I did that is because I really did have strong beliefs on each question one way or the other. Here are my results.

You are a

Social Liberal
(91% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(95% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

I invite everyone else to take the test and tell us what you got!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Au Revoir, Francois!

Francois Tremblay has retired from regular posting at Goosing the Antithesis. It is the sad end of what has truly been a Magical Mystery Tour.

Franc has some of the most insightful writing I've ever read, amateur or professional. Although I would rather he continue bringing us his thought-provoking, gut-busting, and God-bashing essays for decades to come, I do understand what Franc means when he says he's sick of it and that arguing against God has become silly to him.

Fortunately, arguing against God hasn't become silly or boring to me just yet, and the slack will be picked up by Zach, myself, and all the other writers at this blog.

As mentioned in his good-bye post, Franc wants to take his writing and thought to the next level. As I understand it, he wants to examine the foundations of belief, especially collectivist (religious, political, and other) concepts and memes. He also says that he wants to understand "what it all means." Quite a rabbit hole to go down, and I'm certainly looking forward to him sharing his journey through the looking glass.

So, while he may not be hanging around this blog much anymore, Franc will still have quite a presence in our little Internet thinker's clique. He will surely create a tome of information in no time at Check Your Premises (he's probably already got 200 drafts waiting to be posted there), and he will still be posting regularly at our political team blog, The Radical Libertarian. And, of course, he can still be heard at the world-famous and critically-acclaimed(!) Hellbound Alleee show.

From all of us at Goosing the Antithesis: Au revoir and bon voyage, Francois!

A summation and goodbye

Throughout my tenure at Goosing the Antithesis, I have discussed various ways to show how religion is immoral. Amongst a lot of other things, I have discussed the following areas:

All "Christian values" are projections.
How Christian morality is infantile.
How Christian morality interferes with natural moral development.
The tension between Christian morality and modern values.
How Christian morality contradicts basic moral assumptions.
How Christian morality is just a variant of "might makes right." (also here)
The many ways in which Christianity promotes irresponsibility.
The Problem of Evil.
The Christian denial of free will.
The moral superiority of atheism in empowering the destitute.
The fact that Christianity has no values of its own.
The immorality of belief.

Also some related epistemic and moral issues:

The utter failure of presuppositionalism (there are so many entries on this, but here is one), The levels of order, The virtue of non-coercion, The general denial of free will, The nature of proof, Christianity as an inter-subjective system, Why miracles are impossible by definition, Memetics and Christianity, Proving negatives, The virtue of greed, The virtue of honesty, Lovey-Dovey Christianity, Defeat of the Will, Subjectivity of the Divine Will, The "problem of induction", Materialist apologetics, The virtue of justice, The virtue of non-sacrifice, The Block Universe, The memetics of Original Sin, and The memetics of Tolerence vs Intolerence.

I feel I have rather exhausted the topic of morality's relation with religion and atheism. I am tired of talking about atheism in general, and now think the topic all rather silly. I will still post little items from time to time, but this is the end of my regular contributions. I think that I may want to start another atheist blog in the future, but it would have to have a very positive slant (ex. a materialist, reductionist atheist blog).

People who still want to follow my writings can do so at my blogs The Radical Libertarian and Check Your Premises (so no, my enemies won't be able to brag that I'm gone!).