Darwin is not the atheist god.

In today’s Guardian, Madeleine Bunting has obviously run out of things to write about and pulled a bit of a weird post about atheists and Darwin to try and stir things up (and she has succeeded here at least :-) ).

With a peice titled “Darwin shouldn’t be hijacked by New Atheists – he is an ethical inspiration” she generates all manner of fallacies and incorrect statements. Interestingly, she achieves this without actually saying much at all. What a wonderful example of how you can fill four columns in a national daily newspaper with, effectively, nothing. She is writing about 2009 being the “Year of Darwin” (as well as Gallileo, but that is another story) and begins with what a “brilliant scientist” Darwin was, leading to this:

He is, Newton apart, the greatest British scientist ever, so it makes good sense for the British Council, among others, to use this as an opportunity to flag up the prestigious history of British science.

Now, I am sure there are many British scientists (living and dead) who would take offence at this. Darwin’s work (and Newtons) was indeed brilliant, but there have been many other examples of equal brilliance albeit in different fields. Lawrence Krauss, in New Scientist, states that “anyone who was looking could have seen that humans were animals” which is certainly true – Darwin’s brilliance was to have been looking…

Further on, Madeleine identifies one of the biggest worries about the state of British education (and possibly a reason behind the Year of Darwin):

What drives this anniversary is a missionary zeal to persuade and convince the public of the truth of Darwin’s great discoveries, because, astoundingly – despite the mountain of scientific evidence – there is still considerable scepticism and even hostility to this great Victorian. A poll for the BBC in 2006 found that less than half the British population accepted the theory of evolution as the best description for the development of life.

Less than half. In a “largely” secular nation. Sad, isn’t it. I have some doubts of the figures, because I know of no-one personally who would say Evolution is false. For 30+ million people in the UK to think this, the chances of me never having met even one is pretty remote. While I personally feel the figures are somewhat inaccurate, it doesn’t matter. One person thinking the Sky Pixie shook magic dust out and life appeared is one too many.

From this point on, however, it goes downhill. Madeleine falls into the trap of thinking Darwin is the Atheist equivalent of Jesus. She seems to think that atheists require a historical icon to have been an atheist to support the cause. She seems to imply that Darwin has become the Old Testament Prophet of the New Atheism.

Utter nonsense but first some quotes:

In particular, what would have baffled Darwin is his recruitment as standard bearer for atheism in the 21st century.

Where has this come from? Creationists initiated the battle against Darwin, invoking their god to strike down evolution. Religious people of almost all persuasions are happy to accept evolution as valid science. The catholic church has embraced the work of Darwin. How in the name of Wotan is Darwin the “standard bearer” for Atheism?

I actually think Madeleine has mistaken Darwin for Dawkins. Easily done, but a mistake none the less.

Yet bizarrely, the whole 19th-century collapse of faith is now pinned on Darwin.

Only by Creationists. Again, she is using the arguments of creationists against atheists. Madness. There have been atheists as long as there have been humans. We are born atheists and some are converted into theists. The Royal Society was full of non-theists who had nothing to do with Darwin. This is just nonsense you would expect to see on Rapture Ready or CARM.

The fear is that the anniversary will be hijacked by the New Atheism as the perfect battleground for another round of jousting over the absurdity of belief (a position that Darwin pointedly never took up).

The fear by creationists. What is this “New Atheism” thing anyway? What does it mean? Does it imply people have found a new way of not believing? Does it actually have any meaning or is it an underhanded way of taking a shot at Atheists? Is it an example of how some atheists hate their own lack of belief so much they feel the need to distance themselves from others? (This leads to a point excellently expressed on The Atheist Ethicist Blog)

Agnosticism is not a valid belief structure. You either believe there is a god, or you dont. There is no new way to not believe, just in the modern world people are less frightened of stating they don’t believe. It is not “militant atheism” any more than Songs of Praise is militant Christianity.

Next we have a sleight of words trick:

Many of the prominent voices in the New Atheism are lined up to reassert that it is simply impossible to believe in God and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution; Richard Dawkins and the US philosopher Daniel Dennett are among those due to appear in Darwin200 events.

Wow, this is good. There are two points here and she writes to imply they are heavily linked. She first tells us that people are lined up to assert that it is impossible to believe in a Deity (any deity) and accept Evolution and then mentions Dawkins. The implication is clear, Dawkin will be one of these people. This appeals on some levels, because Dawkins is an outspoken atheist (damn his eyes for having the temeretity to speak out….) but it is clearly written by someone who knows nothing of what Dawkins has said.

It is possible to believe in the Christian God and accept evolution. Evolution makes no claims on the origin of life. The Catholic church is happy that God planted the seeds and life evolved. See, it is easy. Evolution disproves a literal interpretation of the bible, but outside the more fundamentalist minds this is rarely found anyway. It is, largely, only devout creationists who feel that Evolution alone challenges God.

Science as a whole challenges belief. In the God Delusion, and during his TV shows and talks, Dawkins uses a vast array of scientific fields to challenge the existence of any deity. I can not think of a scientific disciple which does not provide information to show there is no [Wotan|Odin|Thor|Set|Dievas|Allah|Krishna| etc]. Astronomy and Geology rubbish any idea of a literal interpretation of the biblical creation theory. Evolution is but one strand. No one would say “hey, ignore everything else in science, the only thing that disproves the bible is the genetic similarity between humans and chimps” (or what ever variation you want).

However.

There is a group of people who do think Evolution is the only means by which God can be disproven. These people are convinced that the rest of the scientific stable supports the existence of god, and provides a framework for him to exist. These people also think Dawkins is the evil spokesman of “Darwinism” and these people use the term “New Atheism” to put down those uppity non-believers who have the cheek to speak out in public.

Creationists.

Madeleine Bunting’s article has been so heavily influenced by creationist thinking you could almost read it on CARM, Uncommon Descent or the like. Almost but not quite. The terms are creationis terms. The arguments are creationist-inspired. But the general tone is one of a non-believer. I suspect there is some element of lazy journalism here, or a creationist researcher, or both. Possibly, Madeleine Bunting is an “Old Atheist” – the sort who kept quiet, went to church, paid a tithe etc but didn’t have faith – or perhaps she is an “Agnostic” – an atheist who wont admit it – but either way, she is wrong about Atheism needing, wanting or having a standard bearer in the form of Charles Darwin.

Will wonders never cease

Blimey. The subtitle “Archbishop sees sense, sort of” was tempting here, but I resisted it. A news item on the BBC today is titled ‘Respect Atheists’ says Cardinal. Basically, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, has called for more understanding of atheists! Wonderful. He also reportedly said: “Believers may be partly responsible for the decline in faith by losing sense of the mystery and treating God as a “fact in the world.‘” Strangely, I agree.

Yet more blogs listed

I still don’t know if this actually works to bump up Technorati’s rankings but I’m posting the last instalment of barefoot bum’s list, in the main page body so they aren’t in a Technorati-invisible sidebar.

I suspect that all this does is make Technorati think this blog is a spamblog … But you could forgive any search engine for reaching that conclusion from the number of times Akismet shows content from here has been duplicated on some comically inappropriate blog-content-stealing aggregator. (Usually attributed to some invented individual author or invented blog, although I can never decide if that’s better or worse. ) Continue reading

Forced Faith

Is it right to force people to go through the motions of belief even if they do not hold that belief?

On last Friday’s Faith Central it seems Libby Purves is of the opinion that forcing people to pretend to believe, even if they don’t is better than nothing. Writing about a group of Oxford scholars who have refused to say grace (even though they have accepted a scholarship to a largely religious college) she notes:

But now – reports Cherwell - a prim contingent say they won’t, because they aren’t believers. The Chaplain replies sharply “The personal beliefs of the individual are incidental…There seems to be some confusion about the difference between personal and public prayer, the individual and the role. The scholar/exhibitioner is asked to recite the grace, it is a personal matter whether they also pray it.”

Blimey.  Now call me old fashioned but this seems like “forced” observance and somewhat flies in the face of the idea of the whole thing. If it is simply a matter of words, why does any one care? Is the ritual of observance actually more important than the persons beliefs or is this a sneaky way of trying to convert people? Who knows.

Libby seems incensed by this and comes to an amazing simile:

Frankly, if Professor Richard Dawkins can admit to singing Christmas carols with gusto (“O come let us adore Him”),   it is hard to see why these  clever young things make such a meal of a few words of general gratitude.

By Toutatis! Is singing a Christmas carol with “gusto” really the same as being forced to say grace? We seem to have an issue (as one of the commenters points out) where Libby fails to understand the difference between choice and compulsion. This neatly sidesteps the madness which places the two acts in the same category in the first place!

The piece concludes with this:

Nobody forced them to apply to a 453-year-old institution (there are other Oxford colleges) nor to accept the scholarship when it was offered. It would be brave and principled to refuse the honour and the money on grounds of atheism.  This is neither.

Well, while I sort of agree – they chose which college they went to – I dont really agree. The award of the scholarship is not based on a persons religious choice, so why does it force an act of observance? I am reasonably sure that the “pious” people who provided the donations which make the scholarship possible would be more upset that non-believers are there than people aren’t going through the motions of grace. I am really surprised that so many “devout” people would rather have lip service paid than faith exist.

Another one of the comments on the times blog poses an interesting question. If the scholars were forced to say “I renounce the Holy Spirit” would the church be happy with that? They wouldn’t have to believe it, just say the words…

Starting from the bottom

See, it’s a pun on “bum”? (See last post) Geddit? Hmm. I can’t say I blame you.

As promised, here are the last 70 blogs on the atheist blogroll.

Friendly Atheist
Fundy Post
Geeks And Technology
Geoff Arnold
Ghastly’s Ghastly Journal
Gideonse Bible
God is for Suckers!
goldbricker
Greta Christina’s Blog
HogBlog
Hot Dogs, Pretzels, and Perplexing Questions
Hullabaloo
Ideas
Indigent A-hole
Informed Comment
Inscription
Instaputz
James Randi Educational Foundation
Joel on Software
Jon Swift
LAist
Largest Minority
Made By Monkeys
MakeUseOf.com
micah.cowan.name
Mike the Mad Biologist
Nation
NonSequitur
occRadio
Often Right, Rarely Correct
Old New Thing
Only In America (Himself)
Open Reading Frame
Opinions of Doron Zeilberger
Orcinus
Osterley Times
Pandagon
Pat Condell
Pharyngula
PhysioProf
Planet Atheism
Planet Humanism
Plognark
Political Crank
PSoTD
Ramblings (Ron Murphy)
Richard Dawkins
Rosabelle
ROTUS
Rude Pundit
Saint Gasoline
Scientia Natura
Secular Coalition for America
Secular Thoughts
Shakespeare’s Sister
Skeptico
skippy the bush kangaroo
SlowpokeBlog
Snapshots from an Ordinary Life
Stephen Law
Talking Philosophy
Talking Points Memo
Techdirt.
Thalesian Fools
Think Progress
Thinker’s Podium
This Modern World
Thoughts from a Sandwich
Tiny Revolution
TomDispatch
tonypierce.com + busblog
TPM Online
Truth, Justice & Peace
Truthdig
Unabashed Atheist
virtual philosopher
Welcome to Pottersville
Wetmachine
Whore in the Temple of Reason
Wolcott’s Blog
You Made Me Say It
ywut

Thanks to Barefoot bum

Bum has a different meaning here in the UK but the barefoot one is obviously not an ass because he posted the Atheist Blogroll and the Progressive Blogroll in an optimist attempt to even up the technorati ranks again.

We’ve done this once. I think it might work better if we cut the blogrolls up into chunks and post a few a day, or, as some of Barefoot’s commenters say, they may get ignored anyway.

Atheism, Faith and Idiotic Confusion

It seems that all the PR work by Dawkins, Hitchens, PZ Myers, Harris et al., is still not fully driving home the message of what atheism is and what atheism means. Part of me feels that, for all the good intentions in the world this is something they will never achieve, and a small part of me feels that “organised” atheism is seriously a step in the wrong direction.

At its most basic level, being an atheist implies nothing about a persons intelligence, rationality, political leaning, attitude towards others, scientific literacy, education (and so on). All being an atheist means is the person does not believe in gods. Nothing else. Al Kafir Akbar is a recent example of an atheist who is not rational, intelligent or scientifically literate (and I dread to think what his political leaning is… :-) ). Campaigns such as the “Scarlet A” and “Brights” are, IMHO of course, eventually doomed to failure as the differences between any two atheists start to far outweigh their single shared characteristic. In the past people have mooted ideas such as atheists becoming “politicised,” will such a thing ever work? Would you, for example, vote for a raving right / left (depending on your own orientation) lunatic simply based on his atheism?

For me, the worrying thing about all this – along with the growing sycophancy which surrounds the more prominent atheists (Dawkins lost a bit of support when he dropped a clanger and used the term “Jewish,” but the others still get the hero worship…) – is that it starts to scream “religion.” I am sure everyone remembers election campaigns where one church or another pledges the support of its followers to Politician X because of his beliefs, as soon as the prominent atheists pledge their support (and the support of their sycophants, followers, readers) to a politician because s/he is an atheist the final difference will be gone [*].

In recent months, the furore over the the Scarlet A struck cynical old me as if people were starting to demand an atheist doctrine which was going to be laid down by the high priest (pontifex maximus? We all know where that took us…). People who disagreed with PZ Myers over the “A” for example, were savaged (online, rather than a visit to the lion enclosure) and for one reason or another, large numbers of atheists have fallen in line and display the A on their sites. Now, I must stress, I do not think this is a bad thing in general. If you want to put an A on your site to denote you are an atheist, great. I think it is really cool. I am concerned about the process which brought this about though.

Reading through the ever entertaining times online today, I came across an article by “Dolan Cummings” in the “Battle for Ideas” section. Titled “Count me out of atheism’s creed,” this article expresses some of the points of view I am trying to make, but mostly in a more readable manner… I found this bit quite relevant: (emphasis mine)

From attempts to popularise the term ‘bright’ as a positive identity to calls for atheists to be included on the roster of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’, it seems that some want to establish atheism as an alternative, non-religious camp for people to belong to. But atheism itself ought to be the least interesting thing about atheists, who surely have various and often conflicting beliefs and passions of their own.

Everyone who writes for this blog is an atheist, yet Heather and I have (at times) viewpoints which are at polar opposites. Calling us “atheists” with an implied commonality of purpose seems to gloss over that. If you search around the various atheist blogs, there are mountains of interesting, entertaining and educational blogs – all written by atheists. There are also lots (sadly too many on the blogroll now) of blogs which are little more than people shouting “I am an atheist” over and over.

For a long time people (famous or otherwise) have been trying to get the unthinking masses to realise that atheism is not a religion, chanting is as a mantra sets that task back considerably. If people want to challenge irrational belief then it needs to be done with logic and reason, not with formulating a “counter-church” for people to rally around. Take this idiotic comment on the Dolan Cummings’ article:

Atheism is not non-belief – it’s active faith in the non-existence of God – an unprovable hypothesis. Atheism is just another religion. Richard, Colchester, UK

Pure stupidity. Sadly, as atheism becomes more of an “active” process, people may start to think this even more.

Before I finish, I think I should stress I am not a supporter of the quisling atheists who seem to think religion should be tolerated and pandered to. Religion (any) does not deserve special status or special treatment. Irrational idiocy should be challenged at every juncture. I love to read Sam Harris, Pharyngula, Dawkins et al. I agree with an awful lot of what they have to say. However, there is no holy doctrine of atheism and I do reserve the right to disagree with the prominent spokespersons when they are (IMHO) wrong.

The greatest challenge for atheism is learning how to “cure” people of religion, without becoming a religion. Are people up to that task yet?

* I am more than aware that the chances of a prominent public figure in either the US or UK coming out as an atheist is close to zero at this time, the future may be different. Also, rather than the politician being an atheist per se, s/he could simply espouse atheist-friendly policies.

Baseless Creationist Arguments Find a New Home

Blimey, yesterday, Heather wrote about some empty nonsense being spouted by a blog on the atheist blogroll. In a nutshell, Tom Stelene, writing on the Al-Kafir Akbar blog, has spent a few days recently, ranting about how environmentalism is a “secular religion,” how global warming is a scam, how people who care about about the environment are dirt worshippers and so on. Over the last few days, Heather, Blacksun Journal and Salient have drawn attention to the nonsense he spouts.

Sunrise in AutumnTom Stelene has tried a comeback blast with a post titled “Deniers” (Blog Action Day Continues), and it is well worth reading if only to see the logical holes presented as “argument” and the good rebuttals from BlackSun and Salient. They have both done an excellent job of taking his nonsense to task.

Not being grown up enough to be bothered engaging in reasoned debate, I am simply going to point out some of the more obvious bits of nonsense Tom has turned into bits on the internet. Fisking is fun. If we start with the opening paragraph:

Amidst the latest politically-correct trend of environmentalists to throw out the smear, “global warming deniers,” I sense that by and large they probably have little familiarity with the science and reasoning as to why some deny “global warming” – as most narrow-minded religionists are unfamiliar with the reasons and arguments of atheists – or, better still: “God-deniers.”

Sunrise in Autumn 2By Toutatis, that is a difficult sentence to read. It is completely meaningless but it is still difficult to read. It makes a single attempt at a real claim and, personally, I doubt that this (basic) claim is true. If he is saying, as it seems to read, that his detractors have little understanding as to the science about why the detractors deny global warming. After the headache (caused by trying to resolve this tortured line of attribution) cleared, I decided he must be talking about the psychological reasoning as to why some people will pathologically deny the evidence which is presented to them and disproportionately give value to the minority evidence which can be interpreted as arguing against the mainstream. I am sure that there is a term for people who evince this weird behavioural trait, but I am not a psychologist so I have no idea. Generally, most of the people who do this seem to be arguing for the creationist brand of woo.

After I realised where I had seen this idiotic type of “argument” before, it suddenly became clear that pretty much all of Tom’s “arguments” against AGW fall from the Intelligent Design is Science school of idiocy. Blimey. Loki must have been having a field day letting this one out into humanity.

Tom claims his area of expertise is philosophy, so we can look at the first type of argument he uses and critique it with a philosophical point of view attached.

Swan in flight - Vignette addedOne of his oft-repeated claims is that those who advocate action to combat human-influenced climate change are following a “secular religion” – he uses such entertaining terms as “dirt worshippers” and so on. All very clever. This is the same as the ID / Creationist claims that “Darwinism” is a religion. The reality however is different.

Religion, in its normal use of the term, tends to mean people are holding to a belief either without any evidence or will hold to the belief in the face of evidence to the contrary. In keeping with the creationists, Tom holds to his beliefs without any evidence and retains the belief in the face of contrary evidence. Yet he still claims it is his detractors who are holding to a religion. Yeah, seems odd to me as well.

The next issue I have with his claims is, still in keeping with the creationist ideal, the idea that the isolated – often badly interpreted – data which may be interpreted as contradicting Anthropogenic Global Warming is so significant and Earth shattering it means more than the mountains of data which support AGW. Here Tom shows he doesn’t understand science – something he freely admits – and really should try to learn some more before demonstrating his ignorance. The fact of the matter is there is nearly always some data published which can be interpreted as contradicting a scientific theory.

Little Burrowing MammalMost of the time this data is the result of experimental issues – poorly designed experiments, mistaken conclusions, equipment issues and so on – but some times the data is valid and does pose a contradiction. What happens next is part of the broader scientific method – something Tom seems to neglect – the data is double checked, additional experiments are conducted and, if it is verified and repeated, the theory is adjusted to account for the new information. Despite the greatest wishes (and prayers) of the creationists, isolated findings do not count as evidential falsification. Likewise, Tom has fallen into the layperson’s trap of finding isolated contrary reports and attributing to these much greater weight than they deserve.

Here is a quick quiz question: If 99 reports conclude humans are responsible for climate change and one doesn’t, which should you go with?

The most blatant example of Creationist-Inspired woo-nonsense comes in this little gem:

Precisely because science is not my area (that being philosophy) I have to carefully consider both sides, and for some twenty years as a curious observer (if man causes global environmental problems I obviously want to know) I have read and listened to environmentalist claims – which get plenty of publicity – yet the science that challenges them gets ignored.

Chimpanzee on a TreeThis is seriously worthy of some further examination. It reeks of the same lack of understanding which tries to push ID into the classroom. There are not “two sides” to the argument (if anything there are dozens), so considering “both sides” is meaningless. In the past, I have commented on the debate problem which creates the illusion there are “both sides” regarding evolutionary theory. It seems the same fallacy applies with regards to AGW.

The idea that some one completely ignorant of the methodology and theories of climate science can accurately assess the validity of any competing theories (and there are dozens) is interesting – strictly speaking the layperson can go through the published data and draw their own conclusions, but the chances of that conclusion being a valid expression of the reality are not great. It would be better for Tom to say that, because science is not his area he would be better off listening to the scientific consensus.

For my, cynical, mindset, the reason why he has not gone down this route is borne out by the last part of that sentence. It reeks of the conspiracy-theories pushed by all kinds of deviant scientists.

“…yet the science that challenges them gets ignored.”

Utter nonsense. The “science” that challenges the various AGW theories is not “ignored” by any stretch of the imagination. Where science does challenge the theory it is investigated – sadly most of the claims of “science” which challenges turn out to be bad science at best. This, as with most of Tom’s arguments, is straight from the ID School of non-science. When people from wildly unrelated scientific disciplines (at best, often it is complete non-scientists) write a pile of nonsense about Evolution / AGW, it is quite rightly ignored. The pro-ID / Anti-AGW crowd then pick on this nonsense and scream about some hidden cabal who are suppressing the “alternative theories.” Total nonsense.

If some one can prove AGW is false they will be in line for the Nobel, along with all the people who can invent perpetual motion machines, prove ID, falsify GR, falsify SR etc., etc.,

Until then, science is science. You can rail against the findings all you want, but remember it is akin to shouting at the sun that your “research” shows it should be dark…

Commenting on Comments

I was not planning to do a post on the nonsense being spouted by the comments on the John Humphrys article over on the Times Online (see previous post), but the idiocy and madness some of them presented couldn’t be ignored. Please forgive me, Zeus.

In no particular order we get this wonder from “Timothy” in Ross-on-Wye:

Christianity can be tested by whether the Resurrection occurred or not (1 Cor15). Secular and hostile sources such as Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, the Talmud and the Toledoth Jeshu testify of the crucifixion of Jesus and the empty tomb. That blood and water flowed from Jesus’ side indicates heart failure and we can be certain He was dead. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead where is His body? The disciples started proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem where the Priests could have produced the body if they knew where it was, ending Christianity. Why would the disciples steal Jesus’ body?

Blimey, where do I start. First off, shall we look at motivation? The disciples had a vested interest in Jesus’ body not being found, so there is motive for them to ensure the priests didn’t know where the body was.

More interestingly shall we look at the witnesses (Secular and Hostile sources)? For example, Tacitus was born in about AD56 (56CE for purists) and is unlikely to have travelled to the middle east until around AD76 (or 76CE if you prefer). Even allowing for some major errors on the date of Jesus’ birth, it is unlikely that Tacitus was around to see the event and if anything, he is repeating a secondary or tertiary source. Lucian is even more removed as it was around AD125 (125 CE) he was born. Josephus has potential, being born around AD37 (37 CE), but that is stretching things.

So basically this discounts the secular sources as evidence. The Toledoth Jeschu is equally flawed as it was written around the second century after Jesus was supposed to have been born – again this means it is the result of secondary or tertiary sources AT BEST. I will ignore the Talmud because I don’t know it well enough to comment on how it describes Jesus’ life.

From “D Walsh” in Skipton we get:

For the intellectually honest, atheism is also a matter of faith. It is difficult to prove a negative. There is no absolute proof of the non-existence of god(s), though the lack of proof for his/her/their existence is suggestive. Atheism is therefore a belief, rather than a lack of it.

This is a tired old argument. Lack of belief is not a belief unless you have the preconceived idea that the thing being believed about exists. For example, if I chose to believe the keyboard under my fingers right now didn’t exist, this would be an item of faith. While it is unprovable, I have met no (sane) adults who believes that Faeries do not swap children at night. Atheism is not a matter of faith. Ever.

“Virginia” in Australia writes:

The atheist are the stupid ones. They refused to believe that they will burn in hell for all eternity. There is really no point in trying to convince these people as they are the minority as God puts the belief in us when we were created. That is why there are very few geniune atheist if the truth were known. The physical body dies but the spirit lives forever. So everyone has eternal life, it is where you will spend it. Imagine a world full of atheist? There will be no accountability charity justice compassion purpose worth morals mercy regrets guilt sin compassion and hope. Who do think run orphanges, soup kitchens, red cross, Salvation army, life line, op shops, youth camps, and many other charitable organisations? The atheist? CERTAINLY NOT.!! The atheists think about no one except themselves and if the world is full of them, it would be like HELL. So dont be so proud to be one of them, we dont envy you, we feel sorry for you that your life is so worthless.

This is what I love about the loving, caring, compassionate theists… It is a good job that is only Atheists who can be frowned upon for speaking out. It is good job the world isn’t full of evil atheists, isn’t it… “Chie” in Tokyo continues the false reasoning argument about Atheism:

Agnosticism is the only logical position a thoughtful human being can adopt. Once understood properly, it ends the futile and barren debate about whether God exists or not. Atheists (if by this is meant people who believe that there is no God) are in just as a rationally untenable position as believers. This is why it has to be said that Dawkins, although interesting on religion, shows his intellectual limitations. It’s probably due to the influence of Western mind training, which tends to take a binary approach to everything.

Again, this is nonsense. No matter how much woo you try to wrap around the situation, nor how much patronising you do the situation remains the same. If Chie is trying to suggest God is in a quantum superposition along with Zeus, Hera, Thor, Hemidal, Loki, Monkey, Fox, Rabbit and every other god humanity has come up with over the aeons, then he is deluded. A similar argument is suggested by “Richard” in Bexhill, Essex, which proves the point about people from Essex being thick.

“Eugene” from Heildelberg, Germany (I strongly suspect he is an American serviceman, and he reminds me of one I worked with many years ago) writes a diatribe which finishes with the patronising:

If you are truly intelligent, you will come to this coclusion. GOD IS MORE PROBABLE THAN NOT.

Nonsense. He doesn’t even say which god he thinks is more probable than any of the others. It is nothing but an appeal to mystery in funny clothes.

“Warren Toles,” from Canada, goes a long way to prove that Theists really are stupid and opens his comment with:

It is interesting that there are so many brilliant people in this world that will believe Darwin’s THEORY of evolution and completely dismiss the the Biblical account of creation. This can only be accounted for by the fact that those taking this position have not studied either the Bible or Darwin’s life story including the fact that he dismissed his own theory of evolution prior to his death. And yet we continue to teach Darwin’s Theory of evolution in our schools and Universities as though it is pure fact without any doubt attached to it.

It is great isn’t it. First off it is painfully obvious that Warren has no idea what a “theory” of science actually means. I assume he wants alternate theories of gravitation, thermodynamics (etc) to be taught as well. Add in the nonsense about Darwin’s dismissal of evolution on his death bed and you can see why Atheists laugh at the way Theists believe things without questioning… Shame on you Warren, the internet is a great tool – you should use it to learn new things.

“John W” from Oldham lives in a bleak world and writes:

As soon as you say there is no god, you say that there is no such thing as life or as a person. You reduce everything down to its component parts. You say all our thoughts are self interested delusions, lacking any intrinsic value. You forever steal the smile from the babies face, remove the beauty from the sunset and kill all that is noble in the world.

Wow. My being an atheist seems to stop my children smiling… Oddly this is not the case. I find it worrying that some people really do think they only reason they can be happy in this life is because some invisible person has promised them something in an imaginary afterlife. If this wasn’t a world religion, these people would be in a lunatic asylum. I think the idea that people are only “noble” because of god is what really steals the nobility of their actions. It makes them a vessel for others and implies that without Big Brother watching them, they would really be stealing and raping. I find that a sad, sad world.

“CC” from Cardiff falsifies himself with this:

Having read Dawkins God Delusion out of interest, I am still not convinced about religion or atheism. There are strong arguments for atheism in the book, but there are also some weak arguments. Having a scientific background and a career in engineering, I like to see real evidence. Maths and statistics can be used to ‘prove’ anything academically. So what are the weak arguments for atheism:
1. There must be a planet of other beings out there STATISTICALLY. Ok, but then if those planets do exist then the laws of evolution would apply and we might expect that one of them might be more advanced than we are…so where are they?
2. Although we as humans have made fantastic progress is medicine, we are still only tinkering. Until we can CREATE life from the basic elements I remain unconvinced that we can ever do it.
3. The human state of consciousness, how a body gets life in it cannot be reproduced by humans ‘artificially’.
I feel that if I say I am an atheist then I it would be naive

Wow, he claims to have a scientific background but demonstrates no understanding of science or mathematics. Maybe it is true what they say about engineers… Statistically, in an infinite universe, there are an infinite number of planets out there with life. Basic principles state we (on Earth) are not in a unique position regarding time or place, so you must assume that there are, indeed, some alien civilisations who are more advanced than ours. However, and this is important, these basic principles also assume that the laws of physics hold equally at all points in the universe (keep this in mind). Now, we know that statistically, the chances of another planet near to Earth having an massively advanced alien civilisation is low so we can dismiss them, this means that the statistically probably aliens are going to be quite some distance from Earth, the nearest potentially habitable planet is 60 light years away. Why must all Alien civilisations be capable of Faster than Light travel along with a burning desire to visit Earth? The rest of his “reasoning” is even more dribble.

I will finish (for now) with this head ache inducing comment from “William J” in Oban, Scotland: (Dont you just love the case choice…)

The fact we can debate, discuss, and not only argue about belief,but even in extreme situations go to war over beliefs, in anyway detract from belief:
In fact, rather it proves that belief is Truth.
Richard Dawkins is in fact a Belief Meister He Believes in Non-belief. John Humpry is Still Seeking He Believes in Seeking.
I Believe in God.
The only problem occurs if any of us try to force our beliefs upon the other two. I recently read somewhere that Charles Darwin is indirectly responsible for The Horror of The Nazi Gas Chamber and The Second World War. I found this Idea Abhorrent yet then no sooner had this thought registered,when I remembered The French Revolution was a product of Militant Aitheism. Yet There Again , our “Glorious Revolution” The English Civil War was Based upon The Opposite Belief incidentally it Was The Scottish Covenanters who having handed King Charles The First over to The Parliamentary Army were so Horrified at The English Action, The Crowned Charles
2nd

Toutatis knows what he is trying to say here, but I will point to this as further evidence as to the IQ of theists and atheists. Read the comments, they are priceless. Atheists point out logical flaws and are accused of “hateful attacks.” Theists demonstrate ignorance (and more than a little hate towards atheists) and everyone gushes about how wonderful they are.

[tags]Religion, John Humphrys, In God We Doubt, Belief, Christiantiy, Islam, Judaism, Society, Culture, Darwin, Dawkins, Evolution, Creationism, Bible, Tacitus, Toutatis, Zeus, Hera, Loki, Times Online, Nonsense, Delusion, God, Logic, Logical Fallacy, Fallacies, Atheist, Agnosticism, Atheism, Theism, Woo, Lucian, Josephus, Toledoth Jeschu, Talmud, Flaws, Idiocy[/tags]

Missing the Point?

I was browsing through the Times blogs yesterday and I came across one by John Humphrys (which was actually an extract from “In God We Doubt” about to be published by Hodder & Stoughton) carrying the title “In God we doubt” with the following tagline:

He went looking for God and ended up an angry agnostic – unable to believe but enraged by the arrogance of militant atheists. It’s hard to see the purpose of the world, he says, but don’t blame its evils on religion

As you can see, there was no way I wasn’t going to read this!

Overall, this is a reasonably well written piece. While it isn’t good enough to make me interested in buying the book it may well appeal to some people with wavering faith and the writing style is certainly inoffensive on the whole. John Humphrys is basically explaining how he went from being brought up a good Christian to his faith wavering and finally he “deconverted” to agnosticism. I wont go into the nonsensical idea that “agnosticism” is anything other than a complete wet lettuce of a philosophical idea, which has at its root the basic assumption that God does exist but is insufficiently proven for worship, that is for another day.

There is one, possibly major, problem with the whole piece and (I suspect) the line of reasoning from which it flows. After a lengthy and introspective introduction, Mr Humphrys identifies what he sees as “the attitude of those militant atheists who seem to hold believers in contempt.” (It is interesting that he makes a list of seven points, but again this diversion can wait). His reflection on “militant atheists” produces the following list of characteristics, faults and problems: (These are opinions which “militant atheists” are supposed to hold to)

1. Believers are mostly naive or stupid. Or, at least, they’re not as clever as atheists.

2. The few clever ones are pathetic because they need a crutch to get them through life.

3. They are also pathetic because they can’t accept the finality of death.

4. They have been brainwashed into believing. There is no such thing as a “Christian child”, for instance – just a child whose parents have had her baptised.

5. They have been bullied into believing.

6. If we don’t wipe out religious belief by next Thursday week, civilisation as we know it is doomed.

7. Trust me: I’m an atheist. I make no apology if I have oversimplified their views with that little list: it’s what they do to believers all the time.

After sharing his earth shattering wisdom the reader is further encouraged to discover each point in detail. It is here that I largely gave up on any hope for him. The explanations and rebuttals follow, now with my rebuttal of his rebuttal…

1. This is so clearly untrue it’s barely worth bothering with. Richard Dawkins, in his bestselling The God Delusion, was reduced to producing a “study” by Mensa that purported to show an inverse relationship between intelligence and belief. He also claimed that only a very few members of the Royal Society believe in a personal god. So what? Some believers are undoubtedly stupid (witness the creationists) but I’ve met one or two atheists I wouldn’t trust to change a lightbulb.

In his first sentence he gets it spot on, but possibly not in the way he thinks and despite his scorn for this it is his first point and he goes to great lengths to try and dismiss it. The reality of the matter is no “militant atheist” I know really thinks all theists are dumb and I would be interested in seeing the published information to support this idea. There are very intelligent and well educated theists – this goes without saying – and equally there are retarded atheists. Here, Humphrys has created a strawman and then attacked it. He tried to demolish it with an appeal to ridicule but, come the crunch, he failed. Nothing in what he writes actually says anything relevant to the point he tries to address so I suspect this is actually proof some atheists are dumb.

The strawman used by Humphrys reads that atheists think theists are “mostly” dumb or not as clever as atheists. Nothing that he writes contradicts this idea, except the appeal to ridicule at the beginning – and if it really is so clearly untrue, why address it first and foremost? If he strongly thinks it is false, then why is he using phrases like “reduced to using a ‘study’” (with sneer quotes)? Strawmen are wonderful things, but they need to be used properly…

2. Don’t we all? Some use booze rather than the Bible. It doesn’t prove anything about either.

Here he continues the strawman and again says nothing. I am not sure what point he is trying to make here. Does he mean to imply that religious belief is “good” because some people need alcohol to get through the day? Is he saying that the Bible (or what ever religious belief) is nothing but a crutch for people with problems and then claiming it doesn’t prove the original (yet strawman) argument he presented? If so, he is sadly mistaken.

After what he must feel was a rapier-like strike with the first point, Mr Humphrys descends into meaningless, pointless sentences like point 2. I am sure, somewhere, it means something but reading it on the Times Blog is baffling. He has no means of dismissing the claimed idea, for example with point 2 he does not even attempt to explain why intelligent theists are not simply clinging to their belief like an alcoholic clings to their bottle, he just says (an intellectually lazy) “so what.” For example:

3. Maybe, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Count the number of atheists in the foxholes or the cancer wards.

Again, he has no point other than a strawman. He has no way of dismissing or even disagreeing with it and finally he trots out the old stalwart of the theist case – Atheists in Foxholes. Now, anyone who has read “God Is Not Great” will know that Christopher Hitchens is indeed someone who has been an atheist under fire, as have I and many, many other people I know. In all honesty, I know more people who have been an atheist in a foxhole than a theist.

But even if we assume the claim is correct, it leaves open the argument that the gods the theists are worshipping are somewhat neglectful. Surely they should be caring for their believers more than unbelievers, so why is it so many of the faithful are made to suffer…?

4. True, and many children reject it when they get older. But many others stay with it.

This leaves me with a massive “eh?” So what? He agrees with the militant atheist claim, so what is his point?

5. This is also true in many cases but you can’t actually bully someone into believing – just into pretending to believe.

Mr Humphrys is misrepresenting the “militant atheists” claim here so that he can simply add a rebuttal in the form of a twist. Obviously he is thinks it is ok for religions to bully people into observing their practices because, deep down, the person doesn’t believe in them. Madness.

6. Of course the mad mullahs are dangerous and extreme Islamism is a threat to be taken seriously. But we’ve survived monotheist religion for 4,000 years or so, and I can think of one or two other things that are a greater threat to civilisation.

It seems his liberalised anglican upbringing is showing here. Fundamentalist Islam is, indeed, dangerous in the short term violence aspect but the reality is no amount of terrorist attacks can destroy civilised democracy. Yes, people may die but then people die every day. The destruction of civil liberties that is following the fear of Islam provides a more long-term worry. The destruction of education being forced upon the west by Fundamentalist Christianity is more likely to do long-term harm to our societies ability to exist than people with semtex strapped to their chests. (Even “liberal” Holland is suffering – for example). The “harm” caused by religion is not always exemplified by planes flying into towers – think of the oppression of homosexuals, the subjugation of women, caste systems, refusal of medical treatment for minors etc.

Also, I am not sure his history is up to speed either. While Judaism may have been around for 4000 years, it is certainly a lot shorter period of time in which monotheistic death cults have been dominant on a global scale – let alone people who get their orders from the voice in their head god having access to nuclear weapons.

7. Why? For those of us who are neither believers nor atheists it can be very difficult. Doubters are left in the deeply unsatisfactory position of finding the existence of God unprovable and implausible, and the comfort of faith unachievable. But at the same time we find the reality of belief undeniable.

Again, we have the illusion of a middle ground which is more reasoned, more acceptable, than the non-belief of Atheism. This middle ground has been largely created by theists who seek to undermine the idea that atheism can exist. It is not logical to have no opinion on the subject unless you have given it no thought. I am confused by the concept of finding the existence of god implausible but the reality of belief undeniable. Working through what passes for logic is giving me a head ache but I will try:

Mr Humphrys is asserting he is an agnostic because he finds the existence of god implausible but the reality that people “believe” in god is undeniable so he can’t think of himself as an atheist.

Did I get it right?

It has that wonderful ring of being “true” but it isn’t. Just because lots of other people “believe” something with all their hearts does not mean it is true. For centuries people believed that the Earth was the centre of the solar system, that the solar system was the universe, that stars were ancient warriors, that the gods sat on top of Mount Olympus and interfered with mankind and so on. Not one of these things were true and all the belief in the world will not overturn that.

It strikes me that, although Mr Humphrys describes himself as an “agnostic” and ridicules the idea that children are indoctrinated into religious beliefs, he is suffering from this indoctrination. He (I assume) will certainly agree that lightning is not the result of Zeus’ anger, that Neptune does not control the oceans and Loki is not spreading global mischief. He (again, I assume) will agree that there is a continent across the ocean from Europe, that the Chinese are not devils, that elves do not live in woods, dwarves do not mine gold in the Norse mountains, faeries do not steal Irish children and the tooth fairy is not responsible for the coin under the pillow.

All of these things have at some point been believed to be true by people over the world. All of them. They all have as much evidence for existing as the Christian God. If the existence of belief is proof of existence, then they exist. The existence of the things I mentioned is implausible and unlikely, but this seems not to matter to Mr Humphrys.

I find myself wondering if he really does doubt the existence of god.

On a final note, and getting back to the subject of this diatribe, Mr Humphrys closes with:

As for the fanatics – religious or secular – history suggests they succeed only to the extent that we allow ourselves to be defeated by our own irrational fear. For every fanatic there are countless ordinary, decent people who believe in their own version of a benevolent God and wish no harm to anyone. Many of them regard it as their duty to try to make the world a better place. It is too easy to blame the evils of the world on belief in God. In the end, if we make a mess of things, we shall have ourselves to blame – not religion and not God. After all, he doesn’t exist. Does he?

While I actually agree with the first part of this (and this is why I feel the “fear of Islam” is more worrying than the effects of actual terrorism), he finishes it up by missing the point completely. I know of no atheists who blame god for the world’s troubles. The blame has, at times, been placed on religion which, despite the assertion he closes with, is something he seems to be agreeing with. The people are making a mess of things. They are making a mess of it under the idea that they are working to a higher power and worldly suffering will be followed by a reward in the afterlife. This is the result of religion not secularism.

(I will leave looking at Giles Fraser to others for now but if you have spare time read the comments, they are priceless – even Fr Brian Storey pops up!)

[tags]John Humphrys, Humphrys, Religion, Belief, Christianity, Faith, Delusion, God, Bible, Logic, Fallacy, Strawman, Appeal To Ridicule, Philosophy, Society, Culture, Understanding, Times Online, Logical Fallacy, Confusion, Islam, Monotheism, History, Agnostic, Atheist, Militant Atheist, In God We Doubt, Book[/tags]

Why it is important…

Over the last few months, I have ranted a few times about how I think that civil liberties in the UK (and to an extent the world over, but I don’t have first hand experience of that) are being eroded as a result of general fear and the media’s incessant pressure to convince people we live in dangerous times.

I also rant about this quite a bit in the real world where, the same as online, I am often faced with arguments which basically say there is nothing to worry about, the security forces are trustworthy and only guilty people need to have anything to hide. These arguments are basically false but it can be difficult to refute them, examples like the Guildford Four or Birmingham Six are distant memories now.

Recently, the latest spate of inept terrorists appear to have provided the impetus for the Home Secretary to be looking at reforms to the UK’s anti-terrorist related laws. As well as on this blog, even sites such as the Register have demonstrated some concern in both the driving force, and the results of this new fear-based-law society.

I have spoken in the past about the problems of detaining an innocent person for two months without even having enough evidence to charge them, and this remains (in my mind at least) still the critical issue over the whole deal. Taking someones life away from them, putting them in a cell and controlling their life is a punishment. Despite what the tabloids may try to make people think, it is not an easy time nor is it a “holiday” camp. Given that most UK prisoners are Christians (interesting considering…) someone detained as a suspected Islamic terrorist is at much greater risk of mistreatment by fellows inmates if they are detained with the general population, or they end up being put in solitary confinement for their own protection. Either way it amounts to a serious punishment that would normally require you were convicted of a criminal offence first (and a reasonably serious one to amount to two months detention).

It would be nice if we could be sure that the police forces across the UK would only enact this legislation on the most solid intelligence possible, and this is certainly what is claimed by the ministers and officials pushing for it. The problem is, this really is not the case. The police have no public accountability (for reasons I agree with) over their intelligence and neither the police nor the security forces are subject to any form of censure should they get it wrong. There is no real incentive for the police to adhere to this high standard — in fact, given the way figures are presented with the totals being more important then the amounts presented for trial, it seems the opposite is true.

A recent example of this has been bouncing through the news since the London/Glasgow terrorist event. One of the key suspects was an Indian born Doctor who was arrested in Australia based on UK police information. Dr Haneef has been identified repeatedly in the tabloids as a terrorist (suspect with lesser emphasis) over the past few weeks and the police were doing their utmost to have him sent back over here (in an ironic reverse deportation) so he could be detained under anti-terror legislation — this would have meant the police could detain him for 28 days under current laws, before having to bring charges.

So that the Australians would co-operate and deport Dr Haneef, the police shared a fair bit of their intelligence with them and this is a good thing. I am not pro-terrorist. As a result of this, the Australians detained Dr Haneef for several weeks and tried to bring a case against him.

Sadly, it appears the intelligence indicating he was linked to the terrorists is heavily flawed. The BBC reports:

Prosecutors had claimed that the doctor’s mobile phone SIM card had been found in the burning car that crashed into Glasgow international airport on 30 June.

But it later emerged the card had actually been found in a flat in Liverpool, some 300km (185 miles) from Glasgow, where his second cousin lived.

Blimey. Call me old fashioned but that is a serious mistake to make and, as the prosecutors were willing to present it as evidence when it was so wildly incorrect, it is worrying — it means they didn’t know their “evidence” was faulty. This is not a problem with intelligence, it is evidence. It seems that the police were unable to establish if they had gathered a vital piece of evidence at the crime scene or in a different country. That worries me. A lot. The BBC continues:

Australia’s most senior police officer, Commissioner Mick Keelty, said UK police had provided the inaccurate information.

“Haneef attempted to leave the country. If we had let him go, we would have been accused of letting a terrorist escape our shores,” he said.

The charges against Dr Haneef were dropped after Australia’s chief prosecutor said there had been mistakes made in the investigation, and because of a lack of evidence.

(read more on the BBCs article titled “Why the Haneef case disintegrated“) Sadly, it is probable that we only know of this because the case was handled by a foreign police force. If Dr Haneef had been detained in the UK, he could have been held for 28 days before any case was even made and if it collapsed in that time, there would be no public information as to what went wrong. Basically, Dr Haneef would have spent a month in jail because the police thought his SIM card was somewhere it wasn’t. Most of the current vitriol against the police over this case is aimed at the Australian police, but does anyone think the UK (or pretty much any other western nation) police are all that different?

I have said before that the main reason there is so much apathy over this is that it seems to target minorities, and that alone is a sign that we should all be concerned about the steady erosion of basic civil liberties. While, for now, it may seem like only the brown skinned ones with beards, funny accents and unpronounceable names are being singled out, once the right has been legally removed it is gone for everyone — Hindu, Atheist, Moslem, Jain or Christian alike (and it brings to mind Pastor Martin Niemöller‘s famous poem).

That is why I think it is really, really, important. [tags]Civil Liberties, Hindu, Atheist, Moslem, Jain, Australia, Christian, Dr Haneef, Anti-Terror Legislation, Laws, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Jail, Intelligence, Detention,Pastor Martin Niemöller, SIM Cards, Evidence, Trial,Terrorist,Terror,The Register, Society, Culture, Fear, Terrorism, Tabloids, Media[/tags]

Papal bull

You might think the Catholic Church had enough to worry about with the laughably huge sums its having to drag from the contributions of the faithful to pay out to kids abused by its minions, but the Pope seems to be going for “the best defence is offence” strategy.

The Pope has been spraying papal bull^^^ in all directions, making some mockery of the concepts of ecumenical fellowship.

Protestants

In Sunday’s Observer, Will Hutton compared the Pope’s recent pronouncement on Protestants to the tribally offensive behaviour of drunken Orange marchers, pissing on the Wigan train while shouting anti-Catholic rants. He referred to the Pope’s Continue reading

Social Networking Evolved

With a hat tip to the Friendly Atheist: It seems that Richard Dawkins has stumbled upon the crux of Web 2.0 applications and now there is a dedicated social network for evolutionists to join. The blurb from the admin team reads:

We hope this new site feature will help you meet and connect with like-minded people from around the world or in your area.

Brilliant. Now, what are you waiting for? Get over to Richard Dawkins.net, log in and add Friendly Atheist and myself as your friends.

[tags]Richard Dawkins, Friendly Atheist, Social Networking, Society, Technology, Culture, Evolution, Dawkins, Atheist, Atheism[/tags]

Creationists claim +/or disown Crick

Sparked by a May post and comments on Hells Handmaiden’s always-interesting blog. Hell’s Handmaiden was reasonably challenging the absurdity of Denyse O’Leary’s claim that Francis Crick (one of the people who discovered the double helix structure of DNA, do keep up) would not get tenure today because he propounded the theory that human life was seeded by aliens. This post brought out a pretty incensed series of anti-PC comments from one Wakefield Tolbert. (I admit to being impressed at the Pythonesque surname, fitting so well with my mental picture of the commenter.)

I googled for evidence, with a half-thought out idea that the alien seeding idea was more associated with Fred Hoyle – a former Royal Astromer (thereby giving the lie to the “no honours for eccentric scientists” idea) – and Chandra Wickramasinghe.

Creation Web seems pretty clear that Crick is the enemy:

Long before he ever discovered DNA’s structure, he held strong atheistic views. The news article even reported that Crick’s distaste for ‘religion’ was one of the prime motives that led to his discovery, and also said, ‘The antipathy to religion of the DNA pioneers is long standing. In 1961 Crick resigned as a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, when it proposed to build a chapel.’

They then attack him for suggesting at one point that life is seeded through the universe.

Cross-currents go further in that they try to claim Crick for a slightly misguided one of their own:

What he proposed is, of course, Intelligent Design without a Divine designer—essentially putting off the question of Who or what (be that a Designer or spontaneous process) created life structures able to develop the space-travelling aliens….There’s certainly a lot more evidence for the Hand of G-d than there is for visiting space aliens—but none other than Sir Francis Crick was willing to grab for the latter in order to avoid the former.”

Well, no. There isn’t much evidence for either as far as I can see.

Except that Panspermia itself doesn’t exactly require a belief in visiting space ships. It seems a perfectly rational hypothesis as defined by Answers. com

The theory that microorganisms or biochemical compounds from outer space are responsible for originating life on Earth and possibly in other parts of the universe where suitable atmospheric conditions exist.

There are some fundamental issues of logic here.

Firstly, Crick was indulging in scientific speculation, as the discoverers of the double helix did. They had to test that theory and it proved to fit the observations. If they had found out that DNA molecule was connected in the shape of a teapot or a Mobius strip, they’d have changed their views. Crick did in fact come to modify his views on Directed Panspermia.

Secondly, the reliable authority fallacy is rearing its head again. Crick was successful in one area of thought, ergo, everything he says must be equally respected. I bet Francis Crick was probably not a good breakdancer. That is not to say that he couldn’t try a few fancy moves, if he so chose. However, being part of the team that discovered the structure of DNA would not, in itself, reflect on his skill as a break-dancer. He wouldn’t win an MTV B-boy competition just on the basis that he’d published a Nobel-prize-winning paper on molecular structure.

So, why do ID-proponents care about Crick’s speculations on the origins of life? Because they get a bit miffed that any respected scientist (read – an Authority) is an atheist.

Any potential Authority is going to get dragged in to support their arguments – from Einstein (because he spoke using the odd spiritual metaphor) to Chuck Norris (because he was in a film with Bruce Lee once.) So Crick is no exception. Try to get him on-board somehow.

From the Wikipedia entry on Crick and Creationism

It has been suggested by some observers that Crick’s speculation about panspermia, “fits neatly into the intelligent design concept.” Crick’s name was raised in this context in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial over the teaching of intelligent design. However, as a scientist, Crick was concerned with the power of natural processes such as evolution to account for natural phenomena and felt that religiously inspired beliefs are often wrong and cannot be trusted to provide a sound basis for science……In a 1987 case before the Supreme Court, Crick joined a group of other Nobel laureates who advised that, “‘Creation-science’ simply has no place in the public-school science classroom.”

Obviously, if you are trying to claim the advantages from borrowing Authority (e.g. those trying to use Crick to support the Dover School Board) you’re stuck when your Authority opposes you. So you have to deAuthoritise them pretty damn quick.