Tag Archives: Daniel Dennett
I invariably regret it when I check out the insipid stories linked through AOL News. (Old e-mail accounts are a burden.) Not only is the quality of the reporting from these junior outlets surpassed by that of any high school newspaper, the comments left, which I can’t help from browsing — are inherently vacuous. This time the story I fell upon is about an unfortunate 4-year-old boy, named Luke, who was struck by a foul ball at a baseball game. He suffered a skull fracture and is currently in a medically-induced coma. The reporter and several of those who left comments couldn’t help but stick religion in the reader’s face. The reporter said:
Luke was hit Sept. 2 at a minor league game in Niles, Ohio. We may never know why it happened, but what’s happened since should restore your faith in people. It might even restore your faith in faith.
Maybe this nutwing will never know why it happened, but I already know. And I think I may speak for all reasonable people when I say they know, too. It was a mere accident. Even the distraught mother said so in the video. And why would a well trained and responsive medical team restore my faith in faith? A commenter took the god slant further:
May God’s healing hand touch this precious young boy. I pray God is with his parents, giving them strength and faith in this critical time of his recovery. Also, prayers for the ballplayer, may he find comfort and peace.
In tragic cases such as this, religious minions are quick to grab credit for their non-existent deity. If the boy survives god will receive their praise, even though god didn’t prevent the accident. But if the boy dies, I’m sure the same minions will lay blame elsewhere, on the non-existent devil, perhaps. It’s not like the god of the Old Testament ever killed a child –well, except in some of those fire-and-brimstone stories, which are simultaneously and conveniently open to wide and narrow interpretation. That worldwide flood must have killed millions of innocent children. On the other hand, modern medicine has saved countless. Who to trust?
When tragedies occur and people insist on praying for deliverance, the one thing I find most insufferable is that humans can’t admit to themselves that they are sometimes helpless. Prayer is the delusion of certainty that humans have control over everything just by asking the Sky Daddy to intervene. And encouraging children to believe in prayer sets them up for disappointment when god doesn’t provide. Pray to your heart’s content, but don’t expect me to join in, and don’t condemn me as a heartless bastard when I don’t. Supporting modern medicine and reason is the best way to help children like Luke.
Apologetics Press is so intellectually anorexic, it’s frightening to imagine the base level of research involved in its preparation of creationist material. It’s like watching a poorly conceived horror movie; on the one hand it’s something to laugh at, and on the other it has the occasional shock, even if it’s just a comically masked killer jumping from behind a door with an over-sized knife. It’s cheap thrills, good for a few chuckles. So, here’s today’s feature —the Apologists had something silly to say about the complexity of the trilobite eye. It begins:
One of the most fascinating finds in the fossil record is that of the long-extinct trilobite. Trilobites resided in the Earth’s ancient oceans, and often are considered to be the world’s first arthropods—creatures that consist of hard shells, and that have multiple body segments and jointed legs. Trilobites, which possessed a hard exoskeleton, bear a resemblance to horseshoe crabs, and are thought by evolutionists to be one of the first animals to have lived on the Earth. [my emphasis]
Ah, the errors run like a river: 1) Old-earth creationism invariably involves typological thinking; in other words, some group of organisms must be a “type” without the word ever being adequately defined. Here the Apologists roll the more than 20,000 species of trilobite into one type, as if they were referring to a single creature; and throughout the remainder of the article, trilobite traits are lumped on to that type with complete disregard for the immense diversity that exists within the class, Trilobita. 2) And which paleontologist claims that trilobites were the first arthropods? The first arthropods are thought to have been leggy segmented soft-bodied worms from the Early Cambrian. In fact, if you were to remove all that armor from a trilobite it would look like a worm. It’d be like peeling an artichoke, where there isn’t much underneath. 3) Next, the Apologists claim “evolutionists” think of trilobites as the “first animals to have lived on Earth”. How does it work out that trilobites were the “first arthropods” and the “first animals”? What 19th century children’s encyclopedia have these dimwitted clowns been reading? The sponges might have something to say about who the first animal was.
Let’s wallow in the rest of the Apologists’ misconceptions:
Evolution postulates that all living animals have progressed from simpler creatures, and that by the process of natural selection, organisms have “improved” along the way. Conventional thinking, therefore, suggests that since trilobites are so ancient, they must have been fairly simple creatures with primitive features. However, the eye of the trilobite—which is incredibly complex—refutes such a concept.
Yeah, well, when you disregard the tens of millions of years of natural history that occurred prior to the trilobites’ reign, it’s easy to make that argument. If no creatures with simpler eyes than trilobites had existed, then there would be a problem. But since there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary, the flaw clearly lies in the Apologists being willfully ignorant of the subject matter.
Most trilobites had a pair of compound eyes that were made up of 100 to 15,000 lenses in each eye.
Such intricacies suggest that evolution is a degenerative process, for nothing on Earth today compares to the eye of the trilobite.
Darwinian models that attempt to explain the trilobite’s eye are completely unable to account for such complexity, especially considering the fact that the trilobite is considered to have evolved so early. When one considers the complexity of the trilobite’s eye, and compares it with the considerably less-complex eye systems of animals and/or humans today, it would seem that evolution has “gone in reverse.” [my emphasis]
Additionally, they go on to quote-mine paleontologist Niles Eldredge, who only speaks to the complexity of the trilobite lens, not the entire eye. The unique characteristic of the double-layered lens (doublet) of the trilobite is that it corrects for the aberration that occurs when light travels from a less dense material like water to a more dense one like calcite (CaCO3), which is what the trilobite lens –and exoskeleton, not coincidentally– is made of. But the human lens is, in fact, more complex because it can change shape to focus, while the trilobite lens is fixed. What the Apologists don’t grasp is that evolution is adaptive and not progressive in the long term, and that the variation in nature demonstrates how many ways there are for solving the same problem. How many different types of eyes are there? Moreover, they fail to see that eyes don’t see; eyes merely collect light and convert it to signals for the brain to interpret. Are the Apologists going to argue that the trilobite brain was more complex than the human brain? They can speak for themselves –and their own brains– on this point. Are you smarter than a trilobite? Now that’s a game show I’d watch. Trilobites win every time.
When arguing against religion, some atheists are quite willing to jump headfirst into the bottomless pit of bible verse, where Christians twist and shape scripture into whatever meaning is most convenient –but I’m not one of those atheists, generally. I like to avoid giving credence to a work of fiction like the bible, especially when it concerns scientific matters. I mean no one points to a line of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” and declares it to be the inerrant word of Darwin; scientific theories stand or fall on real world observations, not on faith or allegiance. In science, the evidence is looked for outside of books, not inside of them. Anyway, here we go into the Pit of Despair… don’t even think about trying to escape.
ApologeticsPress.org, a Christian publishing company that does exactly what its name suggests, routinely answers those who dare find contradictions in the bible. One of my favorite unexplained errors, which AP fails to address honestly, is Judas’ death, which occurs twice in the bible –once in Matthew, and once in Acts, with two different methods of expiration, within two different story lines. The King James Bible says:
Matthew 27:5 – And he[Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
Matthew 27:6 – And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, “It is not lawful to put this into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.”
Matthew 27:7 – And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.
Acts 1:18 – Now this man[Judas] purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
Acts 1:19 – And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.
According to Matthew, Judas drops his booty and hangs himself, and then the priests take the cheese to buy a field for the John Does to be buried in. But according to Acts, Judas does the real estate deal, then takes a belly-busting, nose dive onto the ground. So, ostensibly, both the causes of death and the background stories are inconsistent and incompatible. In the former, Judas discards the silver and the priests buy the field. In the latter, Judas buys the field himself using the silver. Now, if the two books only differed in the method of Judas’ death, perhaps we could accept a single explanation as to why they differ, but since the details surrounding his death also fail to mesh, it’s a lot harder to see any reconciliation of the texts without applying some major rationalizations.
The Apologetics Press attempts to explain away the initial discrepancy with some not-so-subtle pasting. They argue that there’s only one death –that Judas’ guts did, in fact, spill out like a “bloated whale”, but only after he hanged himself and his body had rotted from decomposition:
According to ancient tradition, Judas hanged himself above the Valley of Hinnom on the edge of a cliff. Eventually the rope snapped (or was cut or untied), thus causing his body to fall headfirst into the field below, as Luke[the purported author of Acts] described. Matthew does not deny that Judas fell and had his entrails gush out, and Luke does not deny that Judas hanged himself. In short, Matthew records the method in which Judas attempted his death. Luke reports the end result. [AP’s emphasis]
So, the AP sees the holes in Matthew and Luke’s[supposed author of Acts] respective stories of Judas’ demise as an invitation for hole filling –with whatever fits the AP’s preconceived conclusion. But no where in the AP’s longwinded explanation do they even address the question of who bought the field, Judas or the priests. They completely ignore it. Apologists are in major denial when they refuse to acknowledge that the bible’s contradictions aren’t isolated misinterpretations, but interconnected, and cascading, failures. No contradiction is an island.
Please note that the book review below–funny as it is– was not written by a real creationist, but by a faker. See the comment section for the full correction.
I occasionally like to sift through the reviews on Amazon.com of good, evolution related books. I wholeheartedly recommend Evolution: What The Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Donald Prothero. Although, one of the reviewers, someone named Sam Wood, decided it deserved only a single star and a ‘philosophical’ thrashing that is comical to behold. I can only assume it’s a real review and not a parody. I’ve emphasized my favorite parts in bold.
This book is the latest attempt by Big Science to put forth the Big Lie of evolution. Humble believers, the only real skeptics left, are supposed to simply cower in the face of the evidence. But here’s why you shouldn’t believe the Big Lie:
1) The Bible says that God created all earth’s creatures. Since the Bible is the word of God, I think it has slightly more authority than a goofy looking dingus named Prothero.
2) No one has ever seen evolution in action. Dogs don’t turn into birds, and mice don’t turn into armadillos.
3)If natural selection is true, it means that human minds evolved from lower animal minds, which means they are highly fallible. Yet evolutionists tell us to use these very minds to agree with them . If evolution is true, it must be false. That’s a contradiction, therefore Jesus died for my sins and God created the earth.
4) Where are all the fossils? The only fossil science has ever found is Piltdown man, and that was fake. Christians, however, have the Shroud of Turin, a fossil of Jesus. We also have fossil fingers of many saints. The fossils say that Jesus existed, the saints are holy, and Darwin was wrong.
5) It’s very hard to understand how evolution would work, while it’s easy to understand that God created the world. By the principle of Occam’s Razor, it therefore follows that God is the Creator.
6) Evolution is incorrect, and it is illogical to believe in something incorrect. Since the opposite of something incorrect must be correct, God and not Darwin or dinosaurs must be the creator.
7) Increasing evidence shows that Noah’s flood actually desposited[sic] all the layers of soil that geologists think happened over millions of years. The flood would have killed the dinosaurs, had dinosaurs ever existed, but they haven’t. A review of books shows that no one ever talked about dinosaurs until after Darwin, when they became part of the argument for evolution. Convenient, huh?
8. Evolution became popular around the time that scientists were becoming immoral and wanted to stop hanging around in labs and start having more sex. Evolution is the perfect excuse, since we’re all animals we should do it like animals. Christians find this offensive, since Mary was a virgin. If you suggest otherwise, it means you are thinking about the vagina of the mother of God, which is a sin.
So for all of these reasons, I call on Christians to reject Prothero and all of his works, and all of his minions. Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the 12 apostles, and all of the archaegels[sic] and God the father are part of a holy plan which did not happen through evolution, so stop saying things that make God angry and vote McCain/Palin ’08.
After ingesting all that, I find my brain is awash in a dreamy haze of perturbation. So many questions remain unanswered: Is this sinister “Big Science” anything like Big Tobacco? Are all the non-existent fossils a drug induced hallucination delivered through my chlorinated, tap water? Is believing something to be correct both incorrect and illogical? Is my plastic dinosaur collection more valuable now that dinosaurs never really existed –they’re mint in the box? And are my impure thoughts about Mary, the mother of god, a sin if Aristotle is involved somewhere in the mix –if you know what I mean?
It might have been more educational if Richard Dawkins –or that over-simplified museum chart– had explained that paleontologists aren’t so much concerned with complete transitional fossils –or intermediates– but the transitional characteristics displayed in the fossils. Fossils are after all collections of physical traits. But Dawkins is countering creationists, who are so often ridiculously literal in their interpretation of evolution that they imagine the fossil evidence for the transition between two distinct species as an exact in-between –for example, half dinosaur and half bird. Evolutionary history, though, is bushy and convoluted; a particular species may only bear an ancestral trait(s) that’s been slightly modified, or a novel trait(s) that is in its incipient state. That a species of dinosaur had proto-feathers –and not necessarily fully functional wings– is in itself profoundly informative. No cartoonish hybrid is needed as proof of evolution. The same goes for those floating pigs of the sea, those media hogs, those cousins of the hungry hungry hippo –the whales.
Comedy courtesy of DesertPhile
Prepare to sigh with frustration at how effortlessly an idiot can gain a political seat. Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen (R) says the Earth is 6,000 years old. Surely, the turnip truck that delivered her into this world yesterday can just as easily take her back as defective merchandise; she must have been bruised when she fell off the back.
What I find most irritating about debating creationists isn’t their ignorance of general science; we all don’t know things. What’s most annoying is their apparent lack of curiosity. If I don’t know something I like to do research. But if creationists don’t know something, they often pretend that they do know it, proudly and dogmatically, even if it’s blatantly wrong. This behavior reminds me of something Ron Reagan once said about his father, former president, Ronald Reagan:
He knew what he knew, and he didn’t want to know any more.
Well, I found a post titled The Great Debate: Genesis or Science? by Allen Epling, a man claiming to be a former, public school, science teacher, and believer in the inerrancy of the Bible. He begins by declaring his apathy toward science:
Why is it so important that we know how man got here? To believers it shouldn’t matter so much HOW [his emphasis], as much as WHY.
He then resorts to revisionist history to make religion appear accommodating.
In the past 300 years we have seen several instances where true science has advocated an opinion that is different from the Church’s, with the result that the Church has adjusted its interpretation of the Word of God to reflect a more modern view.
The Catholic Church has adjusted its position, reluctantly and belatedly, on several issues, like evolution. But how have fundamentalist Christians –who believe the Earth is 6000 years old and who think The Flintstones is a documentary– ever adjusted their “interpretation of the Word Of God to reflect a more modern view”? Biblical literalism doesn’t sound objective.
Allan Epling’s continues with another historical inaccuracy:
Galileo was threatened with excommunication from the Church if he didn’t recant his statements that the moon was full of craters, even though his telescope clearly showed their existence.
No, Galileo was accused of heresy for stating that the Earth revolved around the sun in his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. After being threatened with imprisonment and death, he recanted, and was given the lesser sentence of house arrest, which lasted almost 10 years. In 1992 –350 years later– the Catholic Church apologized for the incident.
And as a former, physics teacher, Allan Epling should know better than to make the following ridiculous statement, which turns an aspect of quantum physics into philosophy.
Many scientists firmly advocate a “certainty” that there is no God, in spite of believing ‘religiously’ in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal. In the forefront of today’s science is a body of evidence, catagorized[sic] as Quantum Mechanics, that makes clear that nothing in the entire universe is certain but is determined by a “probability factor”. Any scientist that is certain about anything is admitting hypocracy[sic] to his own field of study.
All Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states is that “the more precisely the POSITION [of a particle] is determined, the less precisely the MOMENTUM is known”. It has nothing to do with the general reliability of scientific evidence.
And where would creationists be without quote mining. Allen Epling delivers with the ubiquitous Einstein citation.
The truth must come from both sides without the barriers that now exist that prevent us from seeing that truth. Einsten[sic] said that “Religion without science is blind, and science without religion is lame”. How true.
It’s fairly obvious Einstein wasn’t specifically paying homage to Christianity, but to the fantastical nature of religion in general, as a source of inspiration and imagination. Nowhere in Einstein’s work will we find the religion variable; there is no equation E=MC2 + God.
The last paragraph of Epling’s post sums up creationism in a nutshell:
Each week a new topic will be dealt with presenting, hopefully, a balanced, educated viewpoint, while ALWAYS upholding the divinity and sanctity of the Bible. The basic tenet of this article is that every word of the book of Genesis is factually, historically, and scientifically true.
What Epling is really saying is that science should accommodate Christianity, while Christianity should concede nothing.