Feed on Posts or Comments 28 November 2014

Monthly ArchiveFebruary 2012



Christianity Thomas on 28 Feb 2012

Richard Dawkins equivocates

It is a sad day as Richard Dawkins equivocates:

‘i can’t be sure God does not exist’: World’s most notorious atheist Richard Dawkins admits he is in fact agnostic

A sad day.

Christianity &Islam &Judaism Thomas on 22 Feb 2012

Why Creationism and Intelligent Design Should Never Be Taught in the Science Classroom

Here is a very simple explanation for why creationism and intelligent design should never be taught in the science classroom:

Explanation

“We’re not going to have an evolution versus creation debate in this classroom, but it’s going to take me a few minutes to help you guys understand why.

Can anyone tell me what science is?”

(Long wait. Sometimes you have to make them look it up in the dictionary. Most definitions come round to, ‘A way of learning about nature.’)

“Right, it’s a way of learning about nature. By definition, any concept of a god involves the supernatural – that which is outside of nature. So by definition, it’s outside the scope of the topic. We can’t measure divinity. We can’t test divinity. We can’t falsify a hypothesis about divinely inspired creation. We don’t spend a lot of time on world history or diagramming sentences in a biology classroom, and we’re not going to spend a lot of time on creationism either -because it’s not science.

Science is not concerned with what you believe.

It is concerned with what you know – the best model we can construct from the evidence available in the natural world.
Science doesn’t deal with the metaphysical. Some of you will view that as a limitation, and that’s fine. You have to understand the appropriate uses and limitations of any tool you work with.”

You can potentially leave it here.

Or you can delve into ontological versus methodological naturalism, and talk about Karl Popper and the necessity of falsifiable hypotheses….

By teaching the topic this way (in a bit more depth) and having students understand what science is, I’ve had some amazing results.

I once had an extremely religious fundamentalist student who wanted to have a ‘debate’ the first time I said the word ‘evolution’. He was always very insistent on trying to get me to divulge my faith (or lack thereof). I always responded, “If you are ever able to determine what I personally believe, I’ve failed to be sufficiently objective. This is about knowing the material and understanding the models – not about personal beliefs.”

Baby steps.

First, they have to understand that what you are teaching is not a threat to their faith – or they’ll shut down and refuse to ever accept it.

Second, they have to know – academically – what evolution is and what the available evidence for it is. A proper understanding of the definition of evolution and the support for it leads almost inexorably to step three…

Third, once they know, then they tend to believe. They can’t help themselves. (They usually also continue to believe in their creation myths – but at least they can define evolution properly.)

In another comment, the same author explains:

‘Today we’re going to talk about evolution. Before we do, I’m going to ask you a question that you’re not obligated to answer. Just think about it.

Is there anything I could say up here that would ever change your personal beliefs?’

(Rigorous head shaking identifies the most resistant in the crowd.)

‘Good. And I would never want to. I’m not concerned with what you believe. I’m concerned with what you know. Remember when we talked about the definition of science – we’re dealing only with falsifiable hypotheses about the natural world, so it’s within that context that we’re having this discussion. Your beliefs are totally separate.

Now, what have you been told I would tell you in today’s lesson on evolution? Don’t be shy. It could have come from church leaders, it could have come from friends or relatives, it could have come from your parents. Or maybe you don’t know where it came from. But what have you heard about evolution?’

Students: ‘You’re going to try to turn us away from god. / Evolution says there is no god.’

Me: “You will never hear me say a single negative thing about your faith or your religious leaders. Let me repeat that. You will never hear me say a single negative thing about your faith or your religious leaders. Hold me to that.”

Students: ‘Evolution says we came from chimpanzees!!’

Me: “Not true.”

I would calmly answer each of the misconceptions, until students got exasperated. Eventually…

Student: “What is evolution, then?”

Me: “Glad you asked. That’s the topic of today’s discussion.
I just want to ask you one favor.

Like I said, I’m not going to tell you about your faith. Because that’s the business of your religious leaders, and I’m not an expert in their field.

In return, I’m going to ask that you take some time today to listen to an expert on science with an open mind as he talks about science.”

Then I introduce the notion of change over time, and changes in allele frequencies over time, pointing out that that – change in allele frequencies over time – is evolution.

I taught in a rural community, so it was easy to use examples from breeding cattle. The correlation wasn’t 100%, but it was common that the most religious kids also had some experience on the farm.

“If I want to make a lot of money at the cattle auction when I go to sell cattle, which cow do I breed to which bull out of my breeding stock?”

‘The biggest ones!’

“The next generation, is it likely that my animals will be bigger, on average, than they were in the previous generation, if I don’t allow the scrawnier stock to breed?”

“Well, yeah!”

“Based on what we’ve covered in genetics, why do you think that is?”

They end up stating (usually in a roundabout way) that the allele frequencies have changed.

“Do you believe that can happen?”

“Yes!”

“Congratulations. Go home and tell your parents that you believe in evolution. If they’re confused, explain it to them.”

Christianity &Rationals Thomas on 18 Feb 2012

The funny thing about Christianity – it may make people less moral, not more

The Christians we see on the public stage (politicials, mega-church pastors, the Pope and his underlings, etc.) are fond of suggesting that Christians are better because they have better morals than others. Conversely they suggest that non-Christians are less moral because they do not follow the Christian God. Is this true? This short piece from The Week demonstrates otherwise:

 The Truth About Secular America

American culture is sick, and secularism is the cause of our disease. That, said Steve Chapman, is the contention of religious conservatives like presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who insist that feminists, liberals, and gay marriage have undermined traditional morality, and that only a return to our Christian roots will cure what ails us. But all evidence suggests that this view is not only backward—it’s wrong.

As America has become more secular in recent decades, “most indicators of moral and social health have gotten better, not worse.” Crime has plummeted. Teen pregnancy is down by 39 percent. Divorce rates are dropping. Abortion rates among adolescents are half what they used to be.

Which states continue to have the biggest social problems? The Bible Belt states, not the supposedly sin-ridden blue states. Mississippi has the nation’s highest rate of church attendance, and also the highest murder rate. Liberal Vermont’s murder rate, on the other hand, is 25 percent of the national average. Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, has the nation’s lowest divorce rate. So please, spare us “the sanctimonious fairy tales.” Secular America is doing just fine.

Want to make America better? One way might be to abandon Christianity. It does not seem to be helping.

Christianity Thomas on 14 Feb 2012

The Hypocrisy of Catholic Republicans

Imagine that you are a Republican and you are Catholic. Chances are that you are very vocal about your Christianity and your Catholicism. Now look at this revealing article:

Top Ten Catholic Teachings Santorum Rejects while Obsessing about Birth Control

The right wing Republican politicians who have been denouncing the requirement that female employees have access to birth control as part of their health benefits as an attack on religious freedom completely ignore the church teachings they don’t agree with. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are both Catholics, and wear their faith on their sleeves, but they are hypocritical in picking and choosing when they wish to listen to the bishops.

Three examples:

1) “The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans.”

2) “The US Conference of Bishops has urged that the federal minimum wage be increased, for the working poor.”

3) “The bishops want welfare for all needy families, saying “We reiterate our call for a minimum national welfare benefit that will permit children and their parents to live in dignity. A decent society will not balance its budget on the backs of poor children.””

Why do Christian Republicans behave this way?

Rationals Thomas on 12 Feb 2012

What Nonbelievers Believe

An interesting article:

What Nonbelievers Believe

It highlights 7 areas:

  • Everything since the Big Bang can be explained naturally – this makes complete sense given that our universe operates exactly as we expect it would if there were no god.

  • We can only speculate about what “caused” the Big Bang – this makes complete sense given that this is how science always operates.

  • Ethics do not require a God – See this article for a complete understanding of the process.

  • Religion is man-made – Everyone can see that. The fact that there are thousands of religions and sub-religions, just like there are thousands of languages and sub-languages, proves it.

  • The God of the Bible is especially implausible – Obvious to any third grader who reads the Bible. See this video for details.

  • The idea of prophecy is even less plausible than a God

  • Only humans can solve human challenges – See this page for details.

Christianity &Islam &Judaism Thomas on 08 Feb 2012

Why would anyone be against contraception? The insanity of religion surfaces again

Imagine that you are married, and you and your spouse would prefer not to have a baby right now. So one of you uses a contraceptive like a condom or a birth control pill.

Believe it or not, there are religions which think that giving you the choice to use a contraceptive is wrong, and they want to block access to contraceptives:

Contraception issue heats up as Santorum makes headway

Meanwhile, Romney intensified his attack on the Obama administration during a stop in Johnstown, Colo., after first mentioning the issue on Monday. “Remarkably, under this president’s administration there is an assault on religion — an assault on the conviction and religious beliefs on members of our society,” Romney said. “Recently (Obama) suggested that instead of a church being able to determine who qualifies for the ministerial exception from certain laws, that the government should be able to make that choice, not churches.”

The administration dealt “a real blow, particularly to our friends in the Catholic faith” with the contraception regulation, he said.

The word assault appears in the quote. The religious beliefs that try to block contraception should be assaulted, because they are insane.

Christianity &Islam &Judaism Thomas on 03 Feb 2012

The problem with people who believe the Bible is that they are insane

This graphic nicely sums up the insanity of Bible-believers:

Atheists, can you prove The BIBLE is false?

Any rational person can see that the Bible is false in hundreds of different ways. A simple comparison of Genesis 1 and 2 shows that the Bible itself cannot agree on the order of creation, and both of these creation stories are absolutely false by so many measures.

The only way for a Bible-believer to believe the Bible is to completely abandon reality and the truth. Someone who completely abandons reality and the truth is insane.