Tag Archives: Richard Dawkins

Christians Shouldn’t Use Royal Wedding As Affirmation

Whenever the media highlights an event which is even remotely Christian, the pundit-believers scramble to use it as part of their theological, propaganda machine. Never mind about the details. A blogger, and self-proclaimed “philosopher and scholar of modern western religious thought, a writer and columnist,” named Dr Timothy Dalrymple sees majesty and affirmation of the Christian faith in the silliness of the British Royal Wedding of William and Kate.

You’ve got to hand it to the Brits: they know how to do pomp and circumstance. The entry of Catherine Middleton into Westminster Cathedral is something to behold… I confess: I’m a sucker for weddings.

…The Christian theology of marriage — in which two truly become one — implies that those of us who are called to marriage will only become ourselves fully and truly when we have found the one for whom we were intended.

Yes, you are a sucker for a wedding. First, a minor detail that’s not so minor if you call yourself a “scholar of modern Western religious thought.” Westminster Cathedral is the Catholic Church down the street from Westminster Abbey, the Protestant Church, where the Royal Wedding actually took place. Why would the Queen Of England, who’s the Head of the Church of England, hold the wedding in a Catholic church? Second, the Church of England is a perfunctory Christian organization filled with many closeted and open atheists. The writer Philip Pullman summed it up in a New Yorker interview — “Although I call myself an atheist, I am a Church of England atheist.”

It’s funny to look for everlasting faith in a declining organization that’s only held up by pageantry and a nod to tradition from the pensioners.

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Secular Time Travelers

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It’s Not A Dinosaur. It’s A Dimetrodon T-Shirt.

What in the world is it? It’s not a dinosaur that’s for sure. It’s of the genus Dimetrodon, and lived during the Permian Period, 280 to 265 million years ago, predating dinosaurs by a good 35 million years. More closely related to mammals than to reptiles, Dimetrodon measured about 1o feet long, and had two types of teeth, hence the name Dimetrodon, which means Di (two)- metro(measure)-odon(tooth). Having a variety of tooth types, with multiple cusps, is a characteristic of mammals, not reptiles, to name just one of the many differences between the two groups.  And finally there’s the NEW T-Shirt that tells the world that you know that it’s NOT a dinosaur. Unfortunately, the vagueness of the shirt may lead the uninitiated to think that you’re declaring that you’re not obsolete just yet.

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Ken Ham: The Cartoon – Part 1

The rugged gentleman on the left is Captain Ahab (as played by actor Gregory Peck), the obsessed whaler who hunts down Moby-Dick, the great white symbolic whale. The individual on the right is Australian-born conservative Christian, Ken Ham, the crazed founder of the infamous, Kentucky creation ‘museum’. Is it just me or is there a slight similarity between the two –in appearance and obsession level? If you don’t see it, then just pretend for the sake of the cartoon.

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Arrogance In Prayer

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.

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Trilobites Swim Circles Around Creationists – Part 1

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TheDarwinReport

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.

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The Greatest Show On Earth

I’d like to see Dawkins’ fans camped out in front of book stores in anticipation of a midnight release of The Greatest Show On Earth, like at those crazy Harry Potter events.  Now, that’s a lineup I’d join. The array of interesting people –those wacky creationists included– that would be found at such an event is tantalizing to consider. But sadly we must accept a more mellow event on Sept 22.

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The Creationism Movie To End All Creationism Movies

The entertainment world is on fire with the rumor of another creation movie from Kevin Miller, the maker of Expelled. The story is to be based on the life of evangelist creationist Kent Hovind, a.k.a. Dr. Dino, the tax dodger, the prison bitch.

In September 2009, Resurrection Pictures is partnering in the release of The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry—a heartwarming coming-of-age story about three 12-year-old boys who are shown how to apply Scripture to daily struggles—and is a 2009 Silver Sponsor of the 168 Hour Film Project & Festival. Creation, Resurrection Pictures’ first original film project— a humorous and tearful story of a high school biology teacher’s struggle to expose the lie of evolution, based on the life of creation evangelist Dr. Kent Hovind and written by Kevin Miller the writer of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is scheduled for production in 2010.

My reaction to this news can’t be expressed in mere words, so I offer you this video. Just pretend I’m the talk show host, and Kevin Miller and Kent Hovind are the guests. The fact that it’s in Dutch is irrelevant, for laughter is an international language.

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Dandelion Sex, Or The Lack Thereof

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

I’ve just finished reading Frogs, Flies, & Dandelions: the making of species by biologist Menno Schilthuizen –an engaging and informative book on species formation. Here’s a little taste of what I learned; it illustrates that genetics isn’t perfect, and evolution is beautifully adaptive.

Historically, the common dandelion, that ubiquitous and irritating weed found in gardens and fields throughout North America and Europe, has been a puzzle to botanists. For a long time, no one was sure how many species existed. In the 1700’s, Carolus Linnaeus said only one; in the 20th century, Scandinavian botanists claimed more than two-thousands existed. But with DNA testing, came the answer. Many dandelions are, in fact, clones. In place of normal sexual reproduction with two sets of chromosomes being divided into sex cells, the ovules and pollen, some dandelions reproduce by parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, because at one point in their history they mutated into having three sets of chromosomes, a number which is sexually indivisible. The mutant dandelions instead produce unfertilized –but still viable– seeds, each with a triple set of chromosomes –in other words, a clone.

What’s most illuminating is that the same mutation has popped up several times. So there are several strains with triple chromosomes, all sexually isolated from one another because they can only reproduce by cloning themselves. But it gets better; the clones still produce pollen, except it is completely sterile. Only in the light of evolution does this sordid asexual tale make sense. Why waste the time and energy producing “irregular pollen” if it’s never going to be used? Perhaps god takes a sadistic pleasure in irritating people’s allergies. Or he’s invested heavily in big pharmaceuticals. If so, I hope he had Bernie Madoff sitting on his nest egg.

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The Dishonesty Of Christian Apologists

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.

AND

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.

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