Monthly ArchiveNovember 2009
Creationists like to say that there are no new species, but science sees speciation happen on a fairly regular basis. Here is one example:
On one of the Galapagos islands whose finches shaped the theories of a young Charles Darwin, biologists have witnessed that elusive moment when a single species splits in two.
A look at the origins of religion:
IN the Oaxaca Valley of Mexico, the archaeologists Joyce Marcus and Kent Flannery have gained a remarkable insight into the origin of religion.
During 15 years of excavation they have uncovered not some monumental temple but evidence of a critical transition in religious behavior. The record begins with a simple dancing floor, the arena for the communal religious dances held by hunter-gatherers in about 7,000 B.C. It moves to the ancestor-cult shrines that appeared after the beginning of corn-based agriculture around 1,500 B.C., and ends in A.D. 30 with the sophisticated, astronomically oriented temples of an early archaic state.
This and other research is pointing to a new perspective on religion, one that seeks to explain why religious behavior has occurred in societies at every stage of development and in every region of the world. Religion has the hallmarks of an evolved behavior, meaning that it exists because it was favored by natural selection. It is universal because it was wired into our neural circuitry before the ancestral human population dispersed from its African homeland.
For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.
Christianity Thomas on 16 Nov 2009
A prior post asked: Are Christians idiots?. The movie Hell House certainly makes that question a valid one. You can see the trailer here:
Here is Richard Dawkins’ take on Hell Houses:
The opening line:
It is deeply disturbing to think that there are believers out there who actively use the idea of hell for moral policing
Christianity Thomas on 13 Nov 2009
Have you noticed that Christians can make up any point of view and justify it in their minds with the Bible?
Have you noticed that Christians can make up any point of view and justify it in their minds with the Bible?
For example, one Christian can believe that homosexuals should be killed because the Bible says so. Others believe that homosexuals can be ministers because Jesus preaches love for everyone.
This hilarious interview with Carrie Prejean in Christianity Today offers an excellent example of the rationalization process:
Here is one of her quotes:
Does your Christian faith inform your views?
Absolutely. If you read the Bible, it seems like everybody is trying to argue with the truth. It’s in the Bible, and if you believe in the Bible you believe it’s the truth.
And then a few questions later she says this:
You wrote that you don’t regret getting breast implants. Have you ever wondered whether it might be incompatible with your Christian faith?
No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting breast implants as a Christian. I think it’s a personal decision. I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where it says you shouldn’t get breast implants.
Some Christians have spoken out against women participating in beauty pageants. How would you respond to them?
I think you can be a Christian and compete in a pageant. I think you can be a Christian and be a model. It depends on how you act as that role, and if you remember who you are and you remember what you stand for and stay true to who you are, you can be in any job. Just don’t compromise what you believe in.
You don’t see anywhere in the Bible where it says you shouldn’t get breast implants? You think you can be a Christian and be a model? Really? How about:
1 Timothy 2:9 – “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes”
Philippians 2:3-4 – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
This is also interesting:
Proverbs 31:30 – “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
This article is clear: Christian women have obligation to dress modestly
But clearly something went wrong in the translation:
Churches are instructed in the Bible to speak to a member who is openly and habitually doing something wrong, in an attempt to help them correct their behavior. When such persons refuse to correct their behavior, churches are required to break fellowship with them and remove them from membership (Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5). The church that does not employ church discipline with a member who openly and defiantly acts in ways contrary to Biblical teaching is itself in disobedience to God.
Presumably Christianity Today is under the same mandate.
Is there any delusion in human society as strong as the delusion of religion? Yes – Alternative Medicine
Is there any delusion in human society as strong as the delusion of religion? Yes – the delusion of Alternative Medicine
Ten years and $2.5 billion in research have found no cures from alternative medicine. Yet these mostly unproven treatments are now mainstream and used by more than a third of all Americans….
“Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” is having a significant effect in Christian communities. Examples:
Even Mr. D’souza has to deal with it:
Christianity Thomas on 12 Nov 2009
Christians are so bigoted that they are blind to their bigotry. Case in point:
She didn’t retaliate against you. She prosecuted you for your discrimination against a minority. They “fire you for your beliefs” when your “beliefs” discriminate against others.
Your same repulsive Bible that says “homosexuals should be killed” also is violently sexist and oppressive to women. If we allowed your “beliefs” and your Bible to hold any sway, your manager would not be able to work in any company. That is why you are expelled from the workplace.
The money quote:
The state Health Department reports at least 45 children in religious communities in Monsey and Spring Valley have come down with the mumps… Health officials say the disease shows no signs of spreading beyond the religious communities.
So what happened? It appears that Hasidic Jews who concentrate in the affected areas are reluctant to vaccinate their children. E.G.:
Measles is one of those childhood diseases that, like polio, has been all but eradicated in the United States, thanks to decades of aggressive government vaccination efforts. But New York’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods are suffering through their second outbreak in as many years—the direct result of large numbers of unvaccinated children being exposed to regular visitors from the far-flung corners of the Hasidic world, where measles still exists.
Health officials say that ultra-Orthodox parents in Brooklyn are as susceptible as their crunchier counterparts to the belief that there may be a causal link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism. (Public health officials say there is no evidence to support the claim.) The kids of most skeptics serve as free riders, staying clear of the infection because most other children they come in contact with are vaccinated and safe. But the tendency of Hasidic parents to wait far beyond the recommended 12-month vaccination deadline produces a large pool of potential victims for viruses trafficked by unvaccinated—and frequently visiting—kids from Israel and Europe. “Herd immunity can’t protect you if you’ve got a case in there and a large pocket of unvaccinated people,” said Jane Seward, deputy director of the division of viral diseases of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. “It just ignites.”
Christianity Thomas on 11 Nov 2009
This story on CNN is talking about the “Third Man” phenomenon. Notice how they offer no real explanation for the phenomenon, instead emphasizing on the possibility of “guardian angels”:
DiFrancesco was the last person to get out of the south tower before it fell, Geiger writes.
DiFrancesco never saw nor could he ever find out who helped him. But he doesn’t think the presence was something his subconscious conjured.
“It was a higher being rather than an internal being,” DiFrancesco said. “Maybe it was an angel. I didn’t see the face of God, but I know somebody came and helped me.”
This is CNN’s nod to science:
Geiger says the Third Man could have several explanations. He says scientists studying the phenomenon were able to evoke the sensation of someone standing next to a solitary person in a lab by stimulating certain parts of the subject’s brain.
Yet that presence did not have the active, benevolent and intelligent presence that others often cite during Third Man encounters, he says.
Maybe the Third Man is a coping mechanism, Geiger suggests. The brain creates a companion to help a person survive a terrible situation. Or perhaps there is an “angel switch” in the brain that’s activated in life-or-death struggles.
Wikipedia does the same thing:
Various theories have been presented as possible explanations for the phenomenon, including psychological and neurological explanations, although religious observers suggest the reported cases are manifestations of a guardian angel. The concept was popularized by a book by John Geiger, The Third Man Factor, that documents scores of examples.
Since “guardian angels” are as imaginary as God, rational people seek rational explanations. Like this:
The theories for explaining the third-man experience vary widely. Ron DiFrancesco, the 9/11 survivor who walked out of the South Tower, is convinced that a divine being was by his side, and indeed a spiritual interpretation is common. Scientists, by contrast, have discovered how to evoke the sensation of a shared presence by stimulating the brain with electricity. Mr. Messner, the mountaineer, leans toward the idea that the third-man phenomenon is a survival strategy hard-wired into the brain. “The body is inventing ways to provide company,” he says.
Although Mr. Geiger never shoots down any specific theory, he seems to endorse a biochemical explanation. “It is possibly even an evolutionary adaption,” he writes. “Imagine the advantage for primitive man, perhaps separated during a hunt, alone far from his tribal group, to have the guiding hand of a companion pointing the way home.” But the phenomenon is not limited to people in extremis. Mr. Geiger notes that children often experience real-seeming “imaginary friends,” while widows and widowers say that they feel the presence of a deceased spouse.
Some psychologists believe it’s an example of bicameralism. Under stress, the usually dominant left hemisphere loses some hold over the mind, and logical thinking declines. The right brain, involved in imaginative thinking, intrudes, explains Geiger.
Another theory suggests the Third Man is a coping mechanism, a mental process for calming and separating the person from the horrible experience. “Just as we have a biochemical response to stress through adrenaline, this is a mental process that helps us survive.”
But why do some people sense a wise helper, and others don’t?
“There may be psychological variables,” says Geiger.
“Some people may be more open to new things and experiences.”
For some people, it may kick in at lower stress levels than others.
Young children’s imaginary friends may be Third Man-like manifestations.
In studies of widows and widowers, says Geiger, between 30 to 50 per cent reported having felt the presence of the deceased partner.
Whether the Third Man is an angel or a survival mechanism is for people to decide for themselves, says Geiger.
What turns certain death into a narrow escape? For countless explorers, extreme athletes, and even victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a spectral presence, seen or sensed, has stepped in to save them: the Third Man.
The key to overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles in order to survive begins, then, with the simple belief that an individual will somehow triumph over his or her immediate appalling situation; that he or she is going to live. That is the premise with which most people begin their ordeal. It is when that faith is severely tested, and failure — even death — seems inevitable, that the Third Man appears.
So what changes? It appears our brains have a kind of placebo social sense, a humanity trigger. In a study published in 2006, researchers with the Presurgical Epilepsy Unit of the Department of Neurology at University Hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, were able to artificially induce an “illusory shadow person” in patients by using a mild electric current to stimulate their left temporoparietal junction — an area of the brain involved in our awareness of our physical self that helps us distinguish between ourselves and someone else. Researchers have found a change in parietal activity at the height of meditative experiences, at a point when subjects reported a “greater interconnectedness of things,” which supports the view of some that the temporoparietal junction is also a prime node for religious experience. Lesions in this area can produce a sense of an unseen presence; the hyperactivity of schizophrenics’ temporoparietal cortex can result in their believing their own body is someone else’s.
But what activates this phenomenon in people in extreme environments? A British study published in 2002 speculated on the origin of the Third Man in such cases: “The hallucinations might indicate the brain’s attempt to create the perception of a person during cases of increased arousal (fear, paranoia). The heightened state of awareness and physical privation might go some way to explaining this in…shipwreck survivors and mountaineers.” The brain may be attempting to create a complete human form from “incomplete sensory data.” It is, in other words, creating a companion.
Does this capacity exist in every one of us? This mechanism is not some fluke of human brain structure, and it seems an unlikely by-product of decaying brain function. Perhaps it is there to do precisely what it does for people in need. It is possibly even an evolutionary adaptation. It’s a stirring reminder of what social animals we are — that in our time of deepest solitude and need, our brain finds a way to conjure up a helpful companion, and that companionship is what ultimately makes the difference between life and death.
A Christian figures out that God is imaginary and tries to come to terms with it:
We are told that people need to “fight cancer” and that people with long-term diseases should pray fervently and “never give up hope” because God may deliver a miracle. But is that true?
At the time they received their colostomy, some patients were told that the
colostomy was reversible — that they would undergo a second operation to
reconnect their bowels after several months. Others were told that the
colostomy was permanent and that they would never have normal bowel function
again. The second group — the one without hope — reported being happier over
the next six months than those with reversible colostomies.
“We think they were happier because they got on with their lives. They
realized the cards they were dealt, and recognized that they had no choice but
to play with those cards,” says Ubel, who is also a professor in the
Department of Internal Medicine.
In this documentary, Dr. Carl Baugh of the Creation Evidence Museum in Glenrose, Texas explains why we should believe in creationism.
This display makes a major statement that we are going to emphasize during this program, but let me build a foundation for you. The title of the program is Flying Wonders, in contradistinction to a graphic description of this age prophetically described in the Biblical record as all deceivableness and lying wonders. We are in every direction propagandized by a concept that is in essence a lying wonder.
What am I talking about? When we examine the fossil record, when we examine the current display of splendor throughout the heavens, throughout earth, from the butterflies, to the wonderful construction of the bombardier beetle, the intelligence of the bees, the graphic display taken only hours before this telecast of a bee in activity with some special grapple hooks which I will describe a bit later, paralleled specifically in the fossil record with the very same apparatus, when we view all of this, it is obvious that there has to be a designer to all of this. There has to be a designer with the entire cosmos in mind.
Christianity Thomas on 06 Nov 2009
The video’s title is, “Why Does God Create Some People With Disabilities?”
It shows how ridiculous Christians can get when they try to reconcile their belief in a “loving God” with the reality of our world.
A normal, non-religious person understands reality. God is imaginary. Therefore, God doesn’t create anything. People have disabilities because the chemical process that builds people in the womb and maintains them after they are born is flawed in many ways. It often makes mistakes, and there are many mistakes wired in from the start.
For example, as many as 40% of all pregnancies end in miscarriages. If you believe in God, and that God creates a soul at conception, and that abortion is bad, then you have to wonder why God would be aborting 40% of all pregnancies. The reality is that God has nothing to do with it because God is imaginary, and that is why the statistic is so high.
Creationists, apparently, are tired of getting put in the creationist box. So they are fighting fire with fire by creating a new box and a new term to go with it: the evolutionist. You can see the use of the new term here:
I just want to ask you some questions. I’m assuming you’re an evolutionist.
That makes scientists gravityists too. And atomists. And photonists. And quarkists. And…
By the way, Christians are no longer the only creationists. There are now Islamic creationists too, as described by Richard Dawkins in this interview:
This article goes into more depth: An Islamic Creationist Stirs a New Kind of Darwinian Struggle
Learn more about God’s perfect creation in this video: