"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

William Lane Craig - "Middle Knowledge" And Salvation Through Christ
William Lane Craig is often quoted by Fundamentalists as Christianity's "Greatest Living Apologist". I've just been reading his "A Middle Knowledge Perspective on the Exclusivity of Salvation Through Christ". In it, Craig attempts to argue that salvation being through Christ alone is not contradictory with the idea of an all-loving God. His conclusion is simply ludicrous:

"I think that a middle knowledge perspective on the problem of the exclusivity of the Christian religion can be quite fruitful. Since all persons are in sin, all are in need of salvation. Since Christ is God's unique expiatory sacrifice for sin, salvation is only through Christ. Since Jesus and his work are historical in character, many persons as a result of historical and geographical accident will not be sufficiently well-informed concerning him and thus unable to respond to him in faith. Such persons who are not sufficiently well-informed about Christ's person and work will be judged on the basis of their response to general revelation and the light that they do have. Perhaps some will be saved through such a response; but on the basis of Scripture we must say that such "anonymous Christians" are relatively rare. Those who are judged and condemned on the basis of their failure to respond to the light of general revelation cannot legitimately complain of unfairness for their not also receiving the light of special revelation, since such persons would not have responded to special revelation had they received it. For God in His providence has so arranged the world that anyone who would receive Christ has the opportunity to do so. Since God loves all persons and desires the salvation of all, He supplies sufficient grace for salvation to every individual, and nobody who would receive Christ if he were to hear the gospel will be denied that opportunity. As Molina puts it, our salvation is in our own hands."
In other words, if we asume that Christianity and everything Craig assumes about Christianity is true, then it is a fair and and reasonable for God to punish non-believers. But challenge any one of Craig's assumptions, and his argument collapses.

Given that non-Fundamentalist theistic philosophers (like Kant, Kierkegaard and Plantiga) have been unable to say that a belief in the Christian God is unreasonable, Craig presents nothing more than an empty bag of tricks.

No wonder Fundamentalists only read Fundamentalist apologetics. When one looks elsewhere, their "reasoning" vanishes in a puff of smoke.

Monday, June 28, 2004

The Dangers Of Gotcha Quotes
Surfing the Internet Infidels Newswire, I came across this quote from a letter to the York Daily Record, from a Joseph C. Korsak, dated 25 June 2004:

"Just 20 years after our founding, the Senate approved the enactment of the Barbary Treaties of 1796. Article 11 of the Barbary Treaties of 1796 stated:... 'As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, - as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, - and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.'"
A little checking shows that this version of events is disputed. Hunter Miller of Yale University notes:
"As even a casual examination of the annotated translation of 1930 shows, the Barlow translation is at best a poor attempt at a paraphrase or summary of the sense of the Arabic; and even as such its defects throughout are obvious and glaring. Most extraordinary (and wholly unexplained) is the fact that Article 11 of the Barlow translation, with its famous phrase, "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion," does not exist at all. There is no Article 11. The Arabic text which is between Articles 10 and 12 is in form a letter, crude and flamboyant and withal quite unimportant, from the Dey of Algiers to the Pasha of Tripoli. How that script came to be written and to be regarded, as in the Barlow translation, as Article 11 of the treaty as there written, is a mystery and seemingly must remain so. Nothing in the diplomatic correspondence of the time throws any light whatever on the point..."
So while this quote was contained in the text ratified by the US Senate in 1796, it does not appear to have been in the orignal text of the treaty itself.

This is a salutory reminder of the dangers of "Gotcha" "Smoking Gun" quotes - they're seldom as decisive as they first appear. However, the Barbary Treaties can be used with caution as evidence that the USA was intended by its founders to be more secular than not.

Even Jesus' own disciples doubted...

"Even Jesus' own disciples doubted, and most of them were actually THERE and personally witnessed many of his miracles. In fact, they were even there and actually saw Jesus ascend into heaven. Now that to me would be unquestionably convincing proof - but still they doubted what they saw, trying desperately, one might imagine, to rationalize what had just happened. Fortunately the Holy Spirit came upon them and opened their minds to 'the secrets' Paul referred to in his letter. But such is not the case with all people. Those who will believe will believe in faith and those who will not, simply will not. No miraculous scientific breakthrough will reveal the truth to unbelievers. The Bible is clear that this is not God's plan, so for a Christian or Theologian to seek out a scientific means by which he can convert unbelievers is as fruitless a pursuit as it is for the unbeliever to seek out someone to do it for him. The laws of nature, physics, and science were never intended to produce the answers:"

"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the
deeds of the law." Romans 3:28

tutuzdad-ga, Google Answers: science & the bible, 13 Apr 2004 08:38 PDT
This is just another interpretation of course - but it raises a similar question to that of Jesus' warning about Capernaum... If even those who witnesses his "miracles" first-hand did not believe them, then how - reasonably and rationally - can we? And how - reasonably and rationally - can God punish us in any way for our reasonable & rational failure to believe?

Outside Fundamentalist apologetics, most philosophers of religion have accepted that faith requires a suspension of reason. Some have argued that this suspension is itself "reasonable" - but how can it be? It leaves us with no grounds to distinguish one set of miraculous claims from any other...

Iranian woman 'gives birth to frog'

BBC News - 27 June: "An Iranian newspaper has reported the controversial story of a woman who claims to have given birth to a frog... The Iranian daily Etemaad says the creature is believed to have grown from larva to an adult frog inside her body... While it is unclear how this could have happened, the paper carries quotes from medical experts who say there are human characteristics to the animal..."
This kind of story appeals to (non-Western?) Fundamentalists because it supposedly challenges (Western?) scientific orthodoxy. (Kudos to Rotten News for pointing out similarities to the 18th Century case of Mary Toft who supposedly gave birth to rabbits...)

Further thoughts here... Fundamentalists claim that "evolution" is an atheistic belief system because this allows them to portray it as a metanarrative - and just one explanation in a sea of possible explanations. Hence "Answers In Genesis" argue that "evolutionism" is just one "interpretation" of the evidence which they use to support Biblical Creationism... And "Dr Dino" ludicrously asserts that "evolutionism" can be proven only by proof that "God" could not have been involved in the creation of the Universe... Fundamentalists present "atheism" and "evolutionism" as two sides of the same coin - and build straw men of them as metanarratives which are supposedly unable to explain the existence of the Universe, life and morality.

This makes it all the more important to stress that support for evolution as a fact and a theory crosses many boundaries, religous and secular, and that "evolution" as science does not seek to answer the questions of the origins of life or of the Universe.

I have no doubt that these isses will come up in Darkstar218's next response in our ongoing discussion...

Fundamentalism as a reaction to Postmodernism
"...There are lots of questions to be asked about postmodernism, and one of the most important is about the politics involved--or, more simply, is this movement toward fragmentation, provisionality, performance, and instability something good or something bad? There are various answers to that; in our contemporary society, however, the desire to return to the pre-postmodern era (modern/humanist/Enlightenment thinking) tends to get associated with conservative political, religious, and philosophical groups. In fact, one of the consequences of postmodernism seems to be the rise of religious fundamentalism, as a form of resistance to the questioning of the 'grand narratives' of religious truth. This is perhaps most obvious (to us in the US, anyway) in muslim fundamentalism in the Middle East, which ban postmodern books--like Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses --because they deconstruct such grand narratives..."

Postmodernism, Professor Mary Klages, University of Colorado, 2003

Postmodernist religious fundamentalism
First a quote:

...postmodernist fundamentalists insist upon defending their right to employ the mythos of their faith (i.e., all that was meant to be a source of intuitive meaning and experiential insights) to redefine the logos (all that is rational, empirical) of natural science.

Postmodernist defenders of the faith demand the right, to quote Alvin Plantinga, a well-known philosopher of religion, “to pursue science.. as Christians, starting from and taking for granted what we know as Christians.” Structurally similar arguments appear again and again in other faiths, defending their right to pursue “Vedic science” or “Islamic sciences,” complete with miracles and other manifestations of the supernatural. Indeed, among Hindu and Islamic faithful, the right to their “own” science is asserted with a special vehemence, because it is mixed up with anti-colonial and anti-Western rhetoric...

By Meera Nanda, Religious Fundamentalisms, Modernist and Postmodernist
As Nanda stresses, the craziness of "Postmodernist" Fundamentalism is that it provides no basis for rejecting one set of religious truth claims from any other. (I've touched on Plantiga previously in my old article "Why faith and science don't mix"). But while Fundamentalism borrows the language of postmodernism, it corrupts the latter's central tenant of incredulity towards metanarratives. Fundamentalism is itself a metanarrative, feigning "reasoned" scepticism towards the beliefs of others, and "reasoned" but blind acceptance of its own particular mythos. More on this to come...

Saturday, June 26, 2004

A Dialogue with Darkstar 218 - Summary of posts so far


DialogueSee Darkstar's next response at his weblog.

NB: An updated full index is available here.

Friday, June 25, 2004

"Faith requires neither evidence nor reason. Science cannot exist without either." - tootin-ga, Google Answers, 21 Jun 2004 17:41 PDT

Adam & Eve - A fair verdict?
I've been discussing this question with bigfishjuan on the IMDb::Boards::Saved! message boards.

Genesis 3:1-7 (see here for various translations) says in the KJV:

1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
The story goes that Eve ate the fruit, as did Adam, and that they were both expelled from the Garden of Eden for this act of disobediance. But how were Adam and Eve supposed to know the difference between Good and Evil acts if they did not know the distinction before they ate the fruit?

bigfishjuan offers various explanations, which I will answer in turn:

BF: The Bible never said Adam and Eve were ignorant of right and wrong...
Genesis 3:7 states that Adam & Eve did not even know that they were naked before the ate the fruit - never mind Good & Evil, or right or wrong

BF: Eating the fruit was a sort of rebellion in which they demanded independence...
Can someone with no concept of good & evil "demand independence"? More importantly, should they be punished for doing so? For the rest of their lives? And all humanity supposedly descended from them?

BF: It says Eve was deceived. What must your state of mind be before you are deceived? Not ignorant.
Ever tried taking candy from a baby? Of course you have ;> Get them to look away while you take it. Can you say that the baby is not deceived because it does not know what you are doing?

BF: Adam, however, was not deceived. He knew precisely what he was doing...
Genesis 2:25 states that Adam & Eve "were both naked, and they felt no shame" before they ate the fruit. Genesis 3:7 (above) says that "the eyes of them both were opened" after they ate the fruit. bigfishjuan's explanation contradicts the words of the text.

BF: Some have proposed that he [Adam] knew death would result from her [Eve's] sin and the only way she could be redeemed was if he "fell" too, because if he never fell, the plan of redemption would not have been necessary.
In other words, Adam apparently knew that God would throw Eve out of the Garden for eating the fruit so Adam took "the fall" too (didn't that happen in an episode of "The Simpsons"?) so that God could punish mankind so that God would have to come to earth 4,000 years later to arrange for Himself to be killed so that He could forgive mankind so that they could choose to love Him? Is it just me, or are there a couple of cases of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome in there?

If anyone has any coherent arguments as to why God's actions in Genesis 3 do not amount to Him punishing innocents for acts which they could not possibly know were wrong, please let me know.

Fundamentalist Morality
Surfing around on this question, I came across this question & answer:

[Q] The Old Testament God is cruel and arbitrary in his orders to the Israelites to savagely murder and carry out ethnic cleansing on the original inhabitants of Canaan. Of course, this is also the God who sends people to hell for eternity for only exercising the free will he gave them!

A: First, even if this kind of argument were valid, the atheist could only prove God was mean, not that he did not exist. Second, the atheist who charges God with immorality must have some absolute, universal, and invariant system of morality by which he can judge God. Christians get their system of justice and morality from God's revelation, but from where does the atheist's sense of morality come? From his own subjective opinion? Then he has no right to criticize anyone else's system. From society? Then in Hitler's society ethnic cleansing is "good." From the innate survival mechanisms of nature? Then whatever humans (part of nature) do must be "good" because their actions are products of their natures and thus "good." From some moral agent beyond this material universe who has the authority to impose morality on this material universe and its inhabitants? And so we come back to the idea of a transcendent moral God, exactly what the Christian affirms to exist. Now, the Christian deals with this problem further by arguing that the God who created, gives life to, and sustains people has the proprietary "right" to extinguish people according to his own will, even if it appears to us to be "immoral."

Atheism vs. Christianity, A Response to Unanswered Questions
Bob and Gretchen Passantino, 1993, answers.org
Some thoughts:
  • They do not say why the argument is not "valid". Perhaps they think it is an appeal to outrage
  • The issue is not just that God is "mean" - it is that He is portrayed to be a genocidal hypocrite
  • The answer begs the question on the origin of morality (i.e. it assumes the origin of morality is settled, when it fact that is the very point at issue)
  • Most Born Again Christians in the USA do not believe in "moral absolutes"
  • There is no doubt that "morality" does exist - but no agreement on whether God exists
  • The comparison with Hitler (Godwin, anyone?) is ridiculous - and it is Christians here who are attempting to justify Genocide
  • The answer ignores the point that morality is something we can seek to view objectively, even if we accept that total "objectivity" is unattainable
  • The mere fact that genocide and hypocrisy are considered to be immoral in human behaviour whether or not they are immoral for God shows that a standard of morality exists irrespective of the question of God's existence
  • The final justification given is startling. God has the "right" to wipe out people at will, 'even if it appears to us to be "immoral."'
Fundamentalist "absolute morality" teaches that whatever God does is right by definition. That may be absolute - but it cannot be moral.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Capernaum - A warning from Jesus
Fundamentalist Christianity teaches that there is "no excuse" for not believing that Jesus loves us and desires us to love him. The punishment is damnation. I've been discussing this on the IMDb::Boards::Saved! message boards. On central passage from the Bible is this:

"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chopra! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." [Matthew 11:20-24 KJV]
(You can see various translations of this passage here). Some thoughts:
  • If the people who actually witnessed most of Jesus's "mighty works" first hand did not believe in him, how can we be expected to 2,000 years later?
  • Jesus condemns entire cities to damnation. Surely not everyone in those cities rejected him? What about children, invalids and the like? But the text is clear - these cities are damned
  • The damnation is final - and will apparently be worse than that of Sodom
  • Jesus's threat is close to genocide: "The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group"
  • Where a modern human authority imposes "ultimate" adverse consequences on entire cities, this is considered a war crime
  • The love Jesus seeks is not "freely given", because a failure to love Him results in punishment, perhaps not only for oneself, but also apparently for innocent associates
The literal words of Matthew 11:20-24 show Jesus to be a bullying psychopath - demanding devotion from humanity, broaching no excuse, under threat of eternal torment.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

More from "Fuller" On Inerrancy
This is an interesting quote from the Fuller Theological Seminary on inerrance.

"Jesus taught biblical inerrancy when he said to some religious leaders, 'You err, not knowing the scriptures. . .' (Matt. 22:39). In Matt. 13:32, however, he also said that the mustard seed 'is the smallest of all the seeds,' when today botany knows of even smaller seeds.

In his omniscience as God Jesus knew exactly which seed was the smallest in all earth's flora. But Jesus' purpose was to speak of how something small would do something immense. The best way to do that was to use an example meaningful to his hearers. Thus it would have meant nothing to talk of a seed about which his hearers knew nothing. So Jesus accommodated his perfect knowledge about small seeds to the imperfect knowledge his hearers had on this subject--all to make his hearers wiser unto salvation. Jesus would in fact have spoken error by being scientifically accurate, because he was not intending to teach botany. Thus The Bible is inerrant in everything that it teaches, but not necessarily in things it merely touches upon."
The more ya read, the more ya learn ;> Of course, this definition of "inerrance" leaves it as something which could not possibly be proven by science... More thoughts on this to come.

Fuller Theological Seminary - Inerrancy
I came across a Fundamentalist rant about "Fuller" which contains the following interesting quote:

"Three fourths of the students coming to Fuller in its earliest days, graduating classes of 1950 to 1952, came with a solid belief in inerrancy. At the time they left Fuller about 60 percent of them still remained firm in this view, while almost all of the rest held something like a limited inerrancy view. By the 1960s, on the other hand, limited inerrancy was the overwhelmingly dominant, though not undisputed, view. Less than half the students entering Fuller held to strict inerrancy and only about one-fourth left with the view intact... ... ...Predictably, commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture continued to drop, so that by 1982 only about 15 percent of students held that view."

Reforming Fundamentalism, Marsden, pages 246 & 268
I'll add this to my Facts For Fundamentalists when I get the chance.

Rotten News: Galileo - Jun 22 1633

The Holy Office in Rome forces Galileo Galilei to recant his scientific view that the Sun, not the Earth, is the center of the Universe: 'I abjure with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith these errors and heresies, and I curse and detest them as well as any other error, heresy or sect contrary to the Holy Catholic Church.'

Discussing 2 John 1:10 (from a reply to Moodygoldencow on the IMBD::Saved Boards)

Hi Moody

Your interpretation of 2 John 1:10 is all very sweet - but look at the surrounding text in context. You can see 18 translations of 2 John:5-15 here: http://tinyurl.com/39oel.

In the most literal translations, 2 John 1:7 is clear who the deceivers are:

"because many leading astray did enter into the world, who are not confessing Jesus Christ coming in flesh; this one is he who is leading astray, and the antichrist." [YLT]
As you admit yourself, this tells believers to shun non-believers.

The passage *could* have told believers to show love to and welcome non-believers to demonstrate the error of their ways. But it doesn't.

Jesus himself, in the literal words of the Bible, expresses quite bizarre intolerance. Look at Matthew 11:20-24 (see http://tinyurl.com/2zx8b for various versions). Here's the KJV:
"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee."
Are you saying that these words are "true", but not meant "literally"? Because your interpretation changes the meaning of the literal words of the text.

The literal words most certainly do not teach tolerance - although I'm glad that you do.


(Any reply will appear here)

Monday, June 21, 2004

Compare Various Bible Translations
Here's a handy form to compare various Bible translations simultaneously using Biblegateway.com's excellent website:

Give it a try :-)

Argumentum Ad Populum

A nice come back by Aron-Ra on the topic:

"No, I don't think any position's accuracy is based on popular vote either. If I did, I certainly wouldn't be an atheist, would I?"

Creation Science Challenge

In response to yet another ridiculous post from Bigfishjuan on the IMDB::Saved! boards, I have issued him this challenge:

"If you can name me one single scientific advance that has ever been made in the entire history of mankind which has been based on 'creation science' and not 'materialistic science' (or even just not based on 'materialistic science'), I'll not only write you a full article in response the AiG piece, I'll also donate $1,000 to the charity of your choice. "

Saturday, June 19, 2004

A Dialogue with Darkstar218 - Continued (in response to Tim's post here)

Hi Tim

I live in the UK and you can call me PTET. I didn't major in philosophy or logic either - I learned most of what I know about them in my writings on the net.

When I say "Straw man", I mean that you are attacking a caricature of atheism rather than what atheism actually is.

When I say "False Dichotomy", I mean that you provide two choices (Christianity is either entirely true or entirely false) when in fact there are any possible number of truths. You ms-understand the nature of the so-called "law on non-contradiction", which states that two mutually contradictory propositions cannot be true at the same time. Therefore Christianity cannot be true *and* false at the same time - but there are still any number of possible "truths" and/or "non-truths" about Christianity. (In other words, you can't just *ignore* the fact that many Christians think that the Bible is not inerrant).

You quoted C.S. Lewis as an attack on atheism. Do you think he had the final word on the matter, or do you think just maybe that other people - who maybe don't agree with your point of view - might have something useful to say on the subject to?

Kant is widely recognised as a leading philosophers in the history of mankind. He believed in God (although he said he had to "suspend reason" in order to) and - hey, this'll kill ya - he believed in absolute mortality too. Of course, your version of "God" fails Kant's test for absolute morality - but then you've not actually told me yet what you think absolute morality actually *is*.

Finally, I am not saying that Truth "can only be realised" when every avenue of knowledge has been explored. (In fact, you are attacking a "straw man" version of my argument).

I am challenging you to support your beliefs and assertions. I am asking you how you can be so sure that you know the "Truth" (I don't pretend to) when you willfully disregard even the possibility that you are wrong.

All the best


Friday, June 18, 2004

A Dialogue with Darkstar218 - Aldous Huxley

An aside... I think I've found your Huxley quote. I had seen one bandied about from a novel, but this comes from a 1937 essay called "Ways & Means":

"I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning - the Christian meaning, they insisted - of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever."
This quote commonly appears on Christian websites as a supposed "smoking gun" showing that rejections of Christianity are motivated only by personal self-interest.

The words are taken out of context, of course. Huxley's argument was that personal self-interest must not be used as a sole justification for behaviour. He came to reject nihilism and existentialism - and argued that mankind must have a positive, reasoned, and rational basis for our behaviour. That is certainly what I believe. There are a couple of other Aldous Huxley quotes which are in point here, I think:
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored" (Proper Studies, 1927)

"At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols." (attributed)


Thursday, June 17, 2004

A Dialogue With Darkstar218 - Continued (in response to Tim's posts here and here)

Hi Tim

The article I quoted was written by Anne Krueger, the former editor-in-chief of Parenting magazine. I think its safe to assume that she knows a little bit about what experts say about child-rearing. She does not say that lying is not wrong. She says that exaggeration and lying amongst preschoolers is a normal part of their development and socialisation. They have to learn that it is wrong. The only opinion you've offered in response is your own.

Most People
You say that you can reject the opinion of "most people" - and even most experts in their respective fields - because you know that you are right anyway. How can I tell the difference between your position and one of simple, willful ignorance about what others believe? You say that you support your beliefs by logic and truth - but it's clear that you reject any possibility of these things challenging your preconceived ideas. The Bible warns you to "...prove all things: hold that which is good. From all appearances of evil, refrain yourselves..." [1 Thess 5:19-22]... Your absolutist theology precludes you from doing that. Worse, it leads you to justify evil acts by attempting to re-define what "evil" means to absolve your notion of "God" from any vestige of blame for "his" own actions.

2 Samuel 12:11
In this verse, God clearly says that *he* will organise for David's wives to sleep with his neighbours in broad daylight as a punishment for David's acts. But you say that God cannot be held responsible, because (a) the rapists are sinners anyway; and (b) it's all part of a greater good. That's like saying that Stalin shouldn't be held accountable for the deaths of millions in the Soviet purges, because people carried out his orders and he meant well. It's like saying that Hitler wasn't responsible for the holocaust for the same reasons. The only way you can call these acts "all loving" and "moral" is to re-define what "love" and "moral" means. The God described in 2 Samuel 12:11 cannot be all-loving in any reasonable sense of those words because he causes threatens pain to David's wives to cajole him into repentance. The alternative is to suggest that it is moral for mankind to punish crimes with the rape of relatives (and it happens in some cultures) if it is done in the name of God's "absolute" authority. If that's your position, how can you say that the actions of the 911 hijackers were not moral? They used the same justification that you do.

The Bible - completely true or completely false
Here you present a classic false dichotomy. Your argument has no force in logic. There are any number of possible "truths" as regards the Bible, other than it being completely true or completely false. As I've already established, most scholars - Christians and Jews amongst them - do not believe that the Bible is wholly inerrant. How can you be sure that they are "false teachers" and that you are not? You give no basis in logic or reason for doing so. (And, if you want to make the attempt, you'll have to actually *deal* with the evidence of archeologists, historians, scientists and theologians who say otherwise).

If God doesn't exist and I don't believe He does either
Your arguments here present the standard fundamentalist straw-man of atheism. Atheists are every bit as moral as theists - arguably more so, because their good acts are not based upon a belief in either the afterlife or eternal damnation. (I live in a largely secular country. Yet crime and teenage pregnancy rates here are lower than in the US Bible Belt.) We live our lives, raise families marvel at the wonder of the Universe and seek meaning for our existence very much as you do. The difference is that we're not beholden to some preconceived notions of "absolute" morality or truth. And we can also tell our children that in all circumstances its wrong to directly punish a man's family for that man's transgressions. You can't - because your left justifying the actions of "God" whatever those actions are.

If God does exist, but I don't believe it
Here you present Pascal's Wager. You have given no basis in logic or reason to support your assertion that God exists. The fact is that there *is* no basis in logic or reason for such a belief - unless you want to discount any arguments that conflict with your preconceived notions to begin with. My disbelief in the Christian God is as rational as my disbelief in the Gods of Islam, Hinduism or of those of the ancient Greeks or Romans. You quoted C.S. Lewis in an earlier post. No offence, but you should read more widely. You should consider the words of Immanuel Kant, a rather more important figure in the history of philosophy: "Apart from moral conduct, all that man thinks himself able to do in order to become acceptable to God is mere superstition and religious folly.".

If God doesn't exist, but I believe He does exist
The problem with *your* theology, Tim, is that it leads you to close your eyes to the rest of the world beyond your preconceived notions of "truth". If you believe that God exists, but cannot be sure of it, how can you possibly justify anything other than exploring the world and what people have to say to be sure that your beliefs are based on the real evidence of the world around you? You can't.

If God does exist and I believe He does
If God does exist, Tim, you do him a disservice by insisting that your interpretation of the Bible is the only "truth" in the face of all the wonders of the Universe that God has left us to explore and discover.

Aldous Huxley
I'd be interested to see your quote from Huxley about depravity. Just a warning - I think you'll find that it comes from the words of a character in a novel...

Let me close with two questions.

Let's say that one of your children comes to you in future years and says that they have converted to Islam. They tell you that they don't care what anyone else says - they are convinced in their hearts that the Koran is the only absolute truth, and that you will be damned to hell for your lack of belief. How could you use logic and reason to challenge their beliefs in a way which would not also destroy yours?

Second. You say that you can use logic and reason to defend the creation account in Genesis. Scientists - Christians and Jews amongst them - overwhelmingly say that the evidence is clear that the Earth is billions of years old, and that the fossil record and other evidence shows that fruit trees did not appear on earth until millions of years after the first animal life. Your interpretation of the Bible says that fruit trees appeared on earth before any animal life. Can you justify your interpretation using logic and reason which does not simply discount any possibility of the Bible being wrong in the first place?

Best wishes


Read Tim's reponse here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

cthulhu.org: "'Cthulhu for President. Why vote for a lesser evil?' - Cthulhu; not the only elder god of the Lovecraftian horror mythos, but decidely the one with the most populist 'oomph'. He will one day wake from his dreaming death to rule all creation, so why wait?"

Cthulhu for President. Why vote for a lesser evil?

Friday, June 11, 2004

Talk.origins poetry corner open for business
From: rthearle (rthearle@hotmail.com)
Subject: Talk.origins poetry corner open for business
Newsgroups: talk.origins
Date: 2004-06-10 07:20:01 PST

Remember Ed Conrad's excrutiating lamericks?
Remember Ted Holden's saga of Raoul?
How about the 'Song of Anomalocaris' and the Disney version of the
Russian Revolution?

No? Take a trip down memory lane to the unofficial talk.origins poetry
archive. Open now.


All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small
all things wise and wonderful
descend from one or a very few original ancestors, but diversified
into the wide array of species we see around us by a process of
descent with modification, which has made use of the four main
processes of mutation, selection, drift, and gene flow...

Edward Hopper @ The Tate Modern

Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, 1942

I was lucky enough to attend a private viewing of the new Edward Hopper Exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. It's absolutely superb. For your own dose of "aloneness, not loneliness", get down there if you can. The exhibition runs until 5 September.

bigfishjuan wrote on IMDb::Boards::Saved!:

"the websites you have led me to are run by people with the a priori belief that the Bible is not true, and no evidence can possibly support it."
That is blatantly untrue. Isn't lying a sin for these guys? Or is it OK if they think that their lies glorify god?

See my response in full.

A DIALOGUE WITH DARKSTAR 218 - PART 3 (See Tim's posts in full here).

Hi Tim

Of course lying is wrong. It's amusing that you'd suggest I think otherwise.

You say that God exists and that it therefore follows that Absolute Morality exists. But consider this. The USA is the most Christian of the developed nations. But in your country:

  • most scientists do not believe in a personal God;
  • most Christian Scholars do not believe that the Bible is inerrant; and
  • most Born-again Christians do not believe in moral absolutes.
We both agree that morality exists. But it seems to me that it would be dishonest to insist that the existence of God or of Absolute Morality isn't open to debate. What do you think?

Let's assume for the purposes of discussion that you're right - and that the Bible does provide a basis for understanding absolute morality. We've touched briefly elsewhere on 2 Sam 12:11. The KJV says:
"Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun."
You wrote:
"What is the context of God giving over women to rape and murder? This is David’s punishment for taking Bathsheba and killing Uriah! Does this mean that God is telling us that it’s okay to rape and murder in cold blood? Obviously not. This is God’s dispensation of judgment against David for his sin."
Do you think that it was "Absolutely Moral" to order the rape of a murder's wife as a punishment for his crime? If so, should this punishment be restored? If not, what is "Absolutely Moral" and what is not?

(BTW, I will be away for a few days. Have a great weekend.)


(Tim's response should appear on his weblog)

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Creationist Dictionary / YEC Glossary

Atheism: A religion full of people who hate followers of God and worship Satan, even though they don't admit to believing in Satan. They want to turn the USA and the rest of the world into a morally depraved wasteland.

Questioning: 1. Doubting the claims of evolutionists, a good thing. 2. Doubting the literal Word of God as revealed in Genesis, a bad thing.

Thanks to Rubystars for the link :-)

A DIALOGUE WITH DARKSTAR218 - PART 2 (See Tim's post here)

Hi Tim

We're obviously into the old nature versus nurture debate... The article on biological altruism we've both referred to ends:

"Contrary to what is often thought, an evolutionary approach to human behaviour does not imply that humans are likely to be motivated by self-interest alone. One strategy by which ‘selfish genes’ may increase their future representation is by causing humans to be non-selfish, in the psychological sense."
In short, evolutionary biology provides a mechanism for understanding altruism - and indeed morality - without the need for an external agent. That is not to say that God does not exist or does not have a hand in human affairs - but it does say that the mere existence of altruism and morality is not ipso facto evidence for the existence of God.

You posit that "Human Beings are born with an natural understanding of Good and Evil ". Studies of "feral children" suggest otherwise:
"Quite simply, feral children are usually entirely unaware of the needs and desires and others. The concepts of morals, property and possessions are alien to them, and they can't show empathy with other people. If brought up by animals, they don't even identify themselves as human, but probably regard humans as 'the enemy'."
There are examples of feral or maladjusted children learning to moderate their behaviour. That may suggest that we are born with the capacity for morality. But on the whole, morality appears to arise from socialisation - social interaction - rather than being something we have at birth.

The same goes for the story of your daughter's first lie. For you to say that she was born a liar seems rather harsh to me :-) It is very common for young children to lie and exaggerate - and is generally taken to be a sign of creativity and testing boundaries. I'd say that the fact she knew from the outset that it was inappropriate to abuse your trust says more (positively, of course) about the way you have raised your children than anything else. I've come across two year olds who are much less scrupulous!

In closing, we can both agree that the "Golden Rule" exists in human cultures. I say that this comes from the simple fact that people on the whole (but not always) do better when they co-operate than they do when they don't. Whether God exists or has a hand in this or not is a moot point.

If you wish to argue that it is something innate in humans and that does not depend on social interaction and socialisation, you are going to have to provide evidence to support your assertion.

Kind regards


Follow the discussion in full at Tim's Darkstar218 weblog.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Tim, aka Darkstar218, asks "...Where do we get such notions [of Good and Evil] and are they universal?..." (see here for his post in full)

Hi Tim

Thanks for your great opener.

I shan't bore you with a list of dictionary references... But it's interesting to note that linguists say the words "good" and "evil" come from Indo-European roots meaning "unite, join, fit" and "bad" respectively.

These basic concepts seem to be all-but universal in human cultures - as is some form of the concept of the "principle of reciprocity", or Golden Rule".

For that, it is clear we have a basis for understanding "good" and "evil" which goes beyond individual short-term concerns. It's clear also that expressions of things being "good" and "evil" are often very subjective. There are, after all, still people around who insist that Hitler was "good"; and others who question the saintliness of Mother Theresa, claiming that she effectively denied care to some parents with curable diseases.

But that aside, if we seek objective concepts of Good and Evil which can stand the test of time, we need to consider the interests of everyone involved in an action. (I don't believe, for the record, that "objectivity" is something you can always obtain. But I think its something we can reasonably seek).

I would say that for an act to be truly "good", it has to be for the real benefit of everyone involved. For "bad", it would follow that an act does harm (not just in the short term) for at least some party. "Evil" would imply some special malice of action - a deliberate desire to cause harm. (As the dictionary says: "Characterized by anger or spite; malicious").

From that, I say we can safely say that Hitler's actions were and always will be wrong. His justifications for his genocide were nothing but insane. They were based on pickings from the Bible and from the work of philosophers and scientists all taken clearly out of context. Unless people in the future decide that they want to reject all reason and rationality, we can safely say that Hitler will always be considered to be wrong - and so wrong that if anything justifies the use of the word "evil", Hitler does.

But where do these concepts come from? Well, altruistic behaviour occurs in the animal world. Humans, like many other animals, are successful because we are able to work together in groups. Societies need rules for behaviour, or they break down. From the viewpoint of evolutionary biology, basic "morality" is something we have evolved with. If we didn't have these rules, we wouldn't have societies, and you and I wouldn't be having this discussion ;>

What is clear is that these rules have been with us for a very long time. The first human cultures seem to have arisen about 8,000 BCE, with proto-Indo European cultures dating from around 3,000 BCE. To put that into context, Abraham is said to have lived around 1,800 (or perhaps 2,200) BCE.

Now, we can't agree on whether or not God exists. But, as I hope I've demonstrated, I'm sure we can agree that basic morality, and the concepts of "good" and "evil", most certainly do exist.

And with that, I'll hand the mike back over to you :>


Is the Christian "Relationship with God" Healthy?

It has struck me more and more recently how the Christian view of God can be likened to an abusive relationship. I'd started to put together some notes, when I found this great page from Ebon Musings:

Many evangelical Christian organizations tout what they see as the ultimate benefit of their belief system - the chance to have a 'personal relationship with God'. This relationship is claimed to be deeper, more intimate and more meaningful than anything offered by other religions, similar to the relationship a person might have with a loved one.

However, a detailed look at the Bible reveals that the God these Christians claim to have a relationship with is not a kind, loving or merciful being. As 'A Book of Blood' points out, the God of the Bible is a wrathful, jealous tyrant, swift to send terrible punishment on anyone who does not obey him absolutely and do exactly as he commands. A human being who did the same thing to his loved ones would be considered a domestic abuser, and any competent mental health professional would advise people in a relationship with such a person to get out of it immediately for their own sake.

This article will endeavor to show that, even if taken at face value, the Christian 'personal relationship with God' is abusive and unhealthy in the extreme and deserves to be terminated. To do this, it will list the most typical red flags of an abusive human relationship and show how well they fit the theistic version. As will be shown, despite the fact that these warning signs were intended to apply to human relationships, it is striking how well they match God's behavior as presented in Christian belief and in the Bible... [continued]

The Love Of God (From a post to IMDb::Boards::Saved!)

"... I never understood how people could have so much animosity towards God when all He has ever done is love..."
What, love like banishing Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden for a transgression which they couldn't have known was wrong because they didn't understand the concepts before they ate the fruit? Or love like flooding the world and destroying almost everything living? Or love like organising the rape of a man's wife as punishment for murder as in 2 Samuel 12:11? Or love like coming to earth in Human form full in the knowledge that he'd be tortured and suffer a temporary death? Or love like damning all mankind which refuses to worship him in one particular way through Jesus Christ, even though that means hell for the majority of people who have ever lived?

The 'God' described in the Bible is anything but a loving God. 'He' is shown to be a capricious, jealous, vindictive, indecisive, petty and irrational bully.

Christianity describes a 'God' who has the power to prevent evil, and to directly prove his existence to everyone, but who for no apparent reason fails to do so.

If 'God' does exist, he most certainly isn't as the Bible and Christianity describes.

Is rape OK when God says so?

Darkstar218 writes: "As for your reference to 2 Samuel [12:11], you are making the classic blunder in misquoting scripture. Scripture is meaningless if not given in context. What is the context of God giving over women to rape and murder? This is David's punishment for taking Bathsheba and killing Uriah! Does this mean that God is telling us that it's okay to rape and murder in cold blood? Obviously not. This is God's dispensation of judgment against David for his sin. Before you go misquoting scripture, you had better know what context it was intended for in the first place."

I rather think that this proves my point. If it was OK for God to judge that David should be punished for murder by the rape of his wife, then I think that says interesting things about 'absolute morality' and the Bible. 'Absolute morality' becomes whatever God says is right. So, if you think that God is telling you to, say, kill prostitutes or bomb abortion clinics, then that's allowed... Err... Well, perhaps not ;>

And another thing. What makes you so sure that you are not following false prophets? Most Christian and Jewish Scholars agree that the Bible is not wholly accurate as a work of history or science. How can you be sure that you are right and that every other interpretation of 'scripture' is wrong?"

"Paul" On Homosexuality (From a post to IMDb::Boards::Saved!)

"The Apostle Paul who wrote over two thirds of the New Testament and whose writings have greatly shaped the Christian faith speaks sharply about homosexuality in Romans 1:20-27. Read that passage and tell me what you think.
While the true extent of Paul's contribution is disputed, I'd certainly agree that he was a homophobic bigot. But then, that was very much the culture of his time.

Paul also had some interesting ideas about woman, including these:

'But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.' [1 Cor 11:5-6]

'But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence... And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression... Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. ' [1 Tim 2:12,14,15]
Tell me... If the NT says that homosexuality is wrong, does it not also say that women who pray with their heads uncovered should have their heads shaved in punishment?

Or should we just ignore the parts of the Bible that we don't like?

Hell As Seperation From God (From a post to IMDb::Boards::Saved!)

"...Well, it all depends upon your conception of hell, which is really just separation from God..."

What is the basis, beyond wishful thinking, for saying that hell is just a separation from God? It certainly doesn't come from the New Testament! (See my "Survey of the Christian Hell").

This raises a serious question. If one accepts that the concept of *hell* is metaphorical, then what basis is there for insisting that heaven, or the resurrection, any form of afterlife or even the whole concept of 'God' is not metaphorical too?

Why would an all-loving, all-knowing God need 'love' from individual humans? Why would God stand by and let all of the evil in the world happen, if He has the power to stop it? Why would this God only *show* his love to those who made a conscious choice to suspend reason to believe in him? And what about the billions of people who 'chose' to love God in a different way, say through Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism? Why does God forsake them?

This brand of 'Xtianity Lite[tm]' is 'nicer' than Fundamentalism, but it makes as little sense.


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Another question for darkstar218

Hi Tim (can I call you Tim?)... I'm very interested in your own concept of 'radical conservatism'. It strikes me that there was never any period in the past which would meet the standards you'd like to see in society - but if I'm wrong please do let me know. Your theology, as I understand it, would leave the vast majority of mankind past and present damned for ever, for failing to accept Jesus Christ as their saviour. I find that impossible to reconcile with the idea of an 'all-loving God' - but then again, I'm an atheist, so I perhaps am missing something. Your partner in blogs (;>)


Darkstar218 (I must call him "Tim") has an interesting weblog of "Radical, Conservative, Christian rantings". I've asked him a question:

"As a matter of interest, Darkstar218, can you tell me exactly which period and place of Christian Tradition you uphold as the best example for our current society to emulate?"

Answer, hopefully, to follow...

A reply to darkstar218 regarding "Saved!"

The reviews I've read from Christians who've seen the movie have been largely positive. So, if it was meant to be "an outright attack on Christianity" as darkstar218 claims, it seems to have been unsuccessful.

A 'hate crime' is one motivated by hate - usually of a person's ethnicity or beliefs to be sure... But if this movie was an inspiration to 'hate crime', then where are the stories of Christians being attacked for their beliefs by people having seen 'Saved!'?

As for 'The Passion Of Christ', it had mixed reviews, but was received fairly positively from an artistic point of view. There was no more than a tiny but vocal minority saying that he shouldn't have made it - and there's no evidence that it actually has inspired ill-will towards Jews.

I haven't seen 'Saved!' either, but if it does end with redemption and strengthened faith, is that not a positive thing? (I also think that the reference to 'Divine Comedy' refers to Dante, rather than meaning to imply inspired by God, but I could be wrong ;>)

What astounds me is that people are prepared to condemn a comedy movie, and actors for appearing in it, without having seen the thing.


Conedust has provided a nice little summary of movies that make fun of religion on the IMDB Saved! message board.

Buddhist Jokes

From the Confessing Evangelical blog:

Q: Why don't Buddhists hoover into the corners of rooms?
A: Because they don't have any attachments.

It was the Zen master's son's birthday, so he decided to give the boy nothing wrapped up in emptiness.
'This is a thoughtless, meaningless gift,' said the boy.
'Thank you,' replied the Zen master.

A Buddhist monk approached a hot dog stand.
'Make me one with everything,' he prayed.
The vendor did as he asked, and said, 'That'll be one pound fifty please.'
So the monk handed over a five pound note and waited. And waited, and waited.
'Where's my change?' he asked, finally.

'Change must come from within,' replied the vendor."

Music for the politically incorrect dad (sic)

"Announcing a music revolution for Americans with traditional values... Although James Perloff, best known for his highly popular books 'The Case Against Darwin' and 'Tornado in a Junkyard' writes persuasively in favor of creation and against evolution, he himself has evolved into something completely different -- as evidenced by his new music CD, 'Freedom Shall Return.'... Taking a cue from the '60s, Perloff has written 12 memorable songs that are strong on both melody and message, performed by outstanding musicians and produced by the talented Sang of Stomp Machine Productions in Salem, Mass. Released through Refuge Books, the CD appears destined to become hot bumper music for talk radio..."

Hmmm... I love all sorts of music, but what I've heard of this is fricking terrible. Do have a listen for yourself.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Is Harry Potter merely entertainment?

Thanks to Mike Spencer's Blog for pointing me at a marvellous "Baptist Press" review of the new Harry Potter movie. Here's my favourite bit:

"Members of Wicca teach a philosophy that embraces no absolute truth or sin and replaces the patriarchal male creator God of the Bible with a belief in both male and female gods. Its credo instructs members to embrace spirits and conjure spells in order to control their lives and the lives of others. There are millions of practicing witches worldwide. Indeed, Wicca has become one of the fastest-growing religions in the world today."

As the saying goes, Fundamentalism is often hard to distinguish from parody...

Being Christian doesn't mean you accept all things

A comment from a Conservative Christian's blog - darkstar218's Xanga Site:

"Just a quick note before going to bed tonight. Already seeing that the SAVED! critics are equating 'Christian' values with Love Your Neighbor, everyone and everything must be tolerated and accepted, etc. Bologna! I'm not denying that Christ gave us the command to love our neighbors. But Loving Your Neighbor does NOT mean overlooking sin. Christ forgave sinners and then ordered them to go and sin no more. Mocking Christ and his disciples is not something that should be tolerated by anyone; just as racism, sexism, bigotry, and hatred are scorned by the non-Christians out there, so should they also be denouncing this garbage. No, I haven't seen the movie yet. But I don't have to watch an axe murder to know that it's wrong."

Of course, I haven't seen the movie either, but it strikes me that it's likely having a pop at hypocrisy amongst believers rather than the believers themselves...

Friday, June 04, 2004

Yet another delightful post on the IMDB Saved Boards, this time from conedust:

"Man didn't kill Jesus. God put Jesus on earth specifically for the purpose of death, and thus God bears the only responsibility for Jesus' crucifixion.

And Jesus'death accomplished NOTHING. Nothing at all. If God had wanted to 'forgive the sins of man', He could have done it anytime. Jesus didn't have to die in order for God to forgive man. God is God, after all. He can forgive anything he wants, anytime he wants.

But, instead of simply forgiving man quietly, God decided to kill Jesus as a sort of public relations move advertising the change he wanted to make in His contract with the people of Israel.

Which makes Jesus suffering a hideous mockery, and further proof of the Biblical God's basic evil. "

Thursday, June 03, 2004

More nice stuff from the IMDB Saved! board, this time from the bard himself - Bill_Shakespeare:

'Prove God doesn't exist. ;) '

The rules of logic and science indicate that there must be some kind of basis (either in substance or in thought) for an assertion or else it must be denied. An assertion, without evidence, is not accepted as true. That is the default position, the position that defines what critical thought is. Critical thought means not believing things you are told unless there is evidence to back it up. And without critical thought, logic and science are abandoned, and this is the only kind of productive thought humanity has ever come up with. To reject critical thought is to turn one's back on thinking and embrace the Dark Ages. That's the answer to this statement in theory..."

Tough Questions For Christians

Here's a good one: "How were Adam and Eve supposed to distinguish between good and evil acts if they didn't understand the concepts until they ate the fruit?"

Answers on a postcard, please...

Microsoft's Sacred Cash Cow by Jeff Reifman, Seattle Weekly

"...A former Microsoftie says addiction to Windows revenue, mediocre products, and missed opportunities could doom Seattle's most successful company..."

I don't usually post this sort of stuff, but this story linked from Slashdot is well worth a read...

Just a quick hello to the handful of people visiting from the IMDB Saved! message board. It seems that now's a good time to make it clear that I am in no way associated with The Evil Atheist Conspiracy. Which does not exist. I have no interest in your children. Or your pets. That is all.

If you want to look around, check out my main article archive. And you can leave a comment for me here...

Inorganic oil: much ado about nothing? - Skeptical Inquirer: May-June, 2003

"Geoscientists are cringing as news reports dredge up what they have long considered a preposterous assertion about the origin of oil: That none of the fossil fuels found on this planet come from fossils. The idea, heavily debated in Russia during the 1950s and 1960s, holds that the world's oil is not made of decomposed biological organisms; rather, it forms inorganically at near-mantle depths then migrates up to the crust ..."

"...The potential that inorganic hydrocarbons, especially methane and a few other gases, might exist at enormous depth in the crust is an idea that could use a little more discussion. However, nor from people who take theories to the point of absurdity," he says. "This is an idea that needs to be looked into at some point as we start running our of energy. But no one who is objective discusses the issue at this time..."

That seems to put a lid on Dr Thomas Gold's theories about the origin and regeneration of oil... (Link from Fark). May 2003? What a rollercoaster the internet is ;>

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Internet Monk
"The Internet Monk is the personal web space of Michael Spencer, where I write about things that interest me."

...and he's one Christian that we can all learn something from :-)

Everybody Hates Us
Razormouth: Monday, January 6, 2003

Michael Spencer notes that evangelical Christians are almost universally disliked. Are there good reasons?

I don't really know why someone thought it was necessary to do a poll to see just who were the most disliked groups in society, but the results are in. While serial killers and IRS agents still rank the highest, hot on their heels are evangelical Christians. Not Christians in general. Not Roman Catholics. Not all Christians - but evangelical Christians...

I'm sure I've read something similar which is more recent, but I can't for the life of me remember where...

This Thomas Gold story gets weirder and weirder. It seems that Russian and Ukrainian scientists accuse him of plagiarism - and simple bad science:

"Sometime during the late 1970's, a British-American, one-time astronomer named Thomas Gold discovered the modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins. Such was not difficult to do, for there are many thousands of articles, monographs, and books published in the mainstream Russian scientific press on modern Russian petroleum science. Gold reads the Russian language fluently."

"In 1979, Gold began publishing the modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of petroleum origins, as if such were his own ideas and without giving credit to the Russian (then, Soviet) petroleum scientists from whom he had taken the material. Gold tried to alter the modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins with notions of his own in order to conceal its provenance, and gave his 'ideas' the (very misleading) name the 'deep gas theory.'"

"Worse yet, Gold's alterations of modern Russian petroleum science are utterly wrong. Specifically Gold's claims that there exist large quantities of natural gas (methane) in the Earth at depths of its mantle are completely wrong, - such claims are upside-down and backwards. At the pressures of the mantle, methane is unstable, and the hydrogen-carbon system there evolves the entire suite of heavier hydrocarbons found in natural petroleum, in the Planck-type distribution which characterizes natural petroleum. Methane at pressures of the mantle of the Earth will decompose to evolve octane, diesel oil, heavy lubricating oils, alkylbenzenes, and the compounds found in natural petroleum. [These properties of the hydrogen-carbon system have been described at greater length and rigor in a recent article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences...] Regrettably, Gold is as ignorant of thermodynamics as he is of ethics."

Gold's name appears on a number of creationist websites, claiming that his theories support the idea of a "Young Earth". It's clear from Gold's own writings, however, that he considers these processes to have taken place over millions of years.

A link from Fark led me to an article on WorldNetDaily about a contrarian scientist Dr. Thomas Gold who believes "that oil is a 'renewable, primordial soup continually manufactured by the Earth under ultrahot conditions and tremendous pressures. As this substance migrates toward the surface, it is attached by bacteria, making it appear to have an organic origin dating back to the dinosaurs.'"

There is a reference here saying that Dr Gold's theories have been "debunked extensively"... If I come across anything useful on this either way, I'll post it here.

I stumbled across a great article on the horrors of 14th Century Europe on the website of author Sarah Douglas: "Few people realise that the fourteenth century was the darkest period in recorded European history, so on this page I'd like to give you an idea of the crises that beset fourteenth-century Europe - crises that I explore within the three books of The Crucible. Although there were many minor disasters, there were six major ones that were all to some degree interlocking and self-sustaining..."

There's lots of very interesting background on the loss of power of the Catholic Church during this time.

Here's a lovely "short, lyrical summary" of a recent Dembski's article on Intelligent Design, as nominated for Talk.Origins June "Chez Watt":

I could while away the hours
Amassin' political powers
Constitution can be drained
And my head, would be swoonin'
like the Reverend Sun Myung Moon-in
If I only had a brain.

I'd unravel ev'ry riddle
and those left of the middle
would see trouble and pain

I'd be a "cork-sucking, ice-hole, bastitch"
[this rhyme excised to avoid legal complications],
If I only had a brain.

Oh, I could tell you why
The the flaggelum wiggles so,
I could think like I had never thunk before
Read that last line one time more.

You would all sing holy melodies
in accordance with my zealotry
Or else live lives of pain.
I would achieve my greatest wish
Führer für das Leben: Gish
If I only had a brain--Whoa!

(Given the creationist reliance on straw man arguments, I couldn't
resist. With profuse appologies and eternal gratitude especially to
L. Frank Baum, E. H. Harburg, and Harold Arlen.)

The IMDB "Saved!" message boards seem to be winding down a little, but I did come across this nice post from one nored which is worth checking out: "And now to my overall point: it is not irrational to not believe in God, nor is it irrational to believe in God. It is a matter of faith. I simply have none."

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

IMDb :: Boards :: Post Reply: by kar202 (Mon May 31 09:27:46)

After debating on here for about a week, I am getting bored out of my mind answering the same questions over and over. I have better things to be doing, so I am going to resign from my proselytizing at Imdb.com for a while. If any of you have any more questions on Christianity, Jesus, how to get to Heaven, evolution, creation, the Bible, other religions, etc, then please feel free to email me...

That seems to be the end of this little discussion!

Another link from the latest TalkOrigins feedback, to an article on mutations and information...

Huzzah! TalkOrigins feedback for April is available at last... There's a link to a nice wee parody: What if Scientists Behaved Like Fundamentlists?

Share & enjoy...

Just to give a flavour of World Net Daily's usual editorial stance, here are some of today's headlines:

  • Kerry 'most pro-gay presidential candidate ever'
  • Pizza man saved by gun, but fired for packin' heat
  • Answer to terror? Arm yourselves, says LaPierre
  • Today's Democrats: Stealing elections, corrupting morals, aiding enemies
  • Divine intervention sought in presidential race
WorldNetDaily - A Free Press for a Free People

More on Christian Exodus...

There's an uncharacteristically nice wee piece on this on WorldNetDaily from 28 May:

"Asked by Sean Hannity about forces which might try to stop the secession if the movement sees success, Burnell responded, 'We're receiving e-mails from liberals around the country who can't wait to get rid of us, so there's a benefit to everyone here.' "

The ChristianExodus Yahoo Community Group had over a thousand messages in May. I wonder how long it will take them to hit their target of 50,000 Christians "committed" to their ideas?

The whole thing reminds me of my mate Iain's old gag about "The Rapture"... Wouldn't it be great if the self-righteous where raptured? It would make getting to work in the morning so much easier :-)

ChristianExodus.org is coordinating the move of thousands of Christians to South Carolina for the express purpose of reestablishing Godly, constitutional government. It is evident that the U.S. Constitution has been abandoned under our current federal system, and the efforts of Christian activism to restore our Godly republic have proven futile over the past three decades. The time has come for Christians to withdraw our consent from the current federal government and reestablish the sovereign Christian nation of South Carolina.

Christian Exodus.org Homepage - Allegiance to His Kingdom first !

Worth watching, I'm sure!

Some random thoughts on my ongoing discussions with Kar202... After spouting repeated nonsense gleaned from Answers In Genesis, Kar202's latest tactics seem to be:

  • to accuse me of relying on arguments from authority;
  • to get me to apologise for calling him a liar (which he is);
  • to argue that I mis-represent science by relying on the supposed unassailable dogma of evolution
As ever, Kar202 seems to have one set of standards for his own behaviour, and another for everyone else.

Betty Bowers reviews Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ:

"For those of you not within driving distance to a thriving abattoir, this film may be your only chance to delight in this many quarts of gushing blood, while still skirting criminal arraignment. As a Baptist, I don't often find myself promoting R-rated films, but I'm proud that I live in a country where witnessing two hours of bloody, barbarous torture in gloating detail is considered indicia of religious piety, whereas a mere second gazing upon a woman's breast is cause for outraged apoplexy."