Akhenaton’s many identities

Answers in Genesis has a new page entitled “Chapter 21: Akhenaten-and Nefertititi the Beautiful” . This is part of a series claiming to show “How Egyptian Archaeology confirms the Biblical Timeline.”

Naturally, the article doesn’t “confirm” anything of the kind, even for those who have never doubted for a moment that the Bible is a historical record of the early Jews rather than the writings of a god.

Indeed, it is rather cheering that AIG feel compelled to search out dull old scientific secular evidence. Blimey, it’s almost as if they suspect that all answers can’t be found in Genesis…..

My knowledge of the book of Genesis is close to absolute zero. Still, I would be surprised if it has a mention of Akhenaton and Nefertiti. My knowledge of Akhenaton and Nefertiti is hardly more comprehensive than my knowledge of Genesis, based as it is on Discovery Channel output and a liking for the beautiful sounds of their names.

Hence, I googled “akhenaton in genesis”, on the offchance that Google would come up with biblical Verse x that mentioned this specific Pharaoh. No luck with that project, as yet. But there are plenty of (hmm, what shall I call them, ah ..) original thinkers.

  • A book by Ralph Ellis claims that Adam and Eve were actually Akhenaton and Nefertiti.
  • Joseph Tasset claimed that Ahkenaton was Abraham.
  • Thomas Mann wrote a novel, Joseph and His Brothers, in which Abraham worked for Akhenaton. (Note that this has the decency to be a novel, rather than a wild claim, but the idea was apparently based on the work of 19th century German scholars)
  • In Moses and Monotheism, Sigmund Freud suggested that Moses was a follower of Akhenaton.
  • There’s a whole blog devoted to connecting Moses and Akhenaton. (I dare not mock, as it now seems that I am guilty of producing a blog post on the same demented topic) His or her theme is expressed in “Did Moses and the Ten Plagues Influence Akhenaten to Convert to Monotheism?” This certainly implies a belief that Akhenaton predated Moses.
  • The World of Jah has a complex comments discussion about whether Moses predated or post-dated Akhenaton.
    I am in awe at the detailed study of chronologies from thousands of years ago and am tempted to see this site as Answers in Exodus, which comes with the built-in advantages over its longer-established brother, AIG, of having a better soundtrack and no known currency with the religious right.

So far, Akhenaton has been revealed as Adam, Abraham, Abraham’s boss, a follower of Moses, and someone who was followed by Moses.

There may be a theme developing, here. All of Akhenaton’s noms de Bible start with A. Hmm. Might I lobby for Ajax, Alexander the Great, Aristotle and Archimedes? I know they’re not actually in the Old testament but they are really ancient.

I balk at reading the remaining 25,000 or so results. If you look for Answers in Genesis, it seems you may find many more than you bargained for, each one pretty well as valid as the next…..

Stupidity and lies for Jesus

Always willing to flog a dead horse, I’ve stumbled across more mind-bending nonsense on the crazy-fest that is Yahoo! Answers. As I mentioned previously, this (*) is a haven for the weird and wonderful ideas people can come up with. Sadly, in the best of Web 2.0 traditions, idiocy, bad education and lies rise to the surface while real education gets drowned under the stupidity of the commons. I honestly think that if a good answer ever turned up it would be drowned under the idiocy (and get so many thumbs down) it would quickly flee for its life.

The most recent idiocy to draw my attention is a month old question titled “Do fossils of now extinct creatures such as dinosaurs prove evolution?” (see original)

At first site this looks like a legitimate question. It is the sort of question you would expect inquisitive school children to ask. It gives the chance for a well thought out answer about the nature of fossils, what evolutionary theory is and how scientific proofs work. You can imagine it being the sort of question a teacher would set a class to see what research they carry out. Well, Toutatis forbid they type the question into a search engine. The results are shocking. To an otherwise ignorant person seeing to improve their education, this search would be disastrous. Anyway, back to the question.

After an innocent start (obviously to trick the unwary), the question continues:

The fact that dinosaurs once lived and are now extinct is no proof of evolution. Such fossils merely show us that certain species once living were destroyed and became extinct. Theorists have been able to reach no general agreement on the cause or causes of extinction. The theories on this subject are numerous and sometimes very imaginative. Since most fossils are found in sedimentary rocks and show signs of catastrophic burial, they seem to point to a global flood as the principal cause of extinction. They must have lived on earth at the same time, just as the Bible implies.

Oh dear Belenus! It is true that the fact dinosaurs lived once and not any more is not proof of evolution. After a promising start it crashes down into a pile of blithering idiocy. So far so uneducated. Next we get:

If the flood-geology interpretation of geological strata is correct, all or most dinosaurs became extinct at the time of the flood. Until that time, then, man and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time.

Its good that he uses an “if” to start there. I agree that if the flood geology interpretation were correct dinosaurs died at the flood. However it isn’t. It isn’t even close. Man and Dino did not live on Earth at the same time. It really is that easy.

So far this is just standard creationist idiocy. It is the sad product of poor education, poor understanding and religious doctrine combining. As always though, the monumental lack of evidence to support creationism causes problems and the TRUE BELIEVER© is forced to lie for Jesus. It happens all the time. In all types of debate. The stronger the persons faith, the more they seem willing to lie for their deity. I find the irony very entertaining. Here we have:

Is there any EVIDENCE outside of the Bible to support this view? Yes, there is. It is well known that along the Paluxy River in Texas many dinosaur footprints have been found in limestone strata classified as Cretaceous. Not so well known is the fact that for about fifty years human footprints have been reported in the same strata.

Taranis give me strength. Don’t you just love it when some one asks a question that they answer themselves? Yes. (all puns intended). The only evidence to support humans and dinosaurs co-existing is in the minds of creationists. It isn’t even in the Bible. It is pure fiction. The Flintstones is not real. Lying for Jesus is still lying. The crazy questioner finishes off with his bit of conspiracy theory for Jesus nonsense:

Source: Footprints in Stone(color-sound film)
But since the concept that man lived with dinosaurs is incompatible with the theory of evolution, many Scientists dismiss this documentary for the persuasive evidence unfolded.

Man living with Dino is not incompatible with evolution. The “documentary” evidence cites is not dismissed for that reason and it really is not persuasive…

The screaming stupidity that is Yahoo! Answers comes out in the “best answer” chosen by the “asker.” As is so often the case, the person chooses a best answer that restates whatever idiocy they agree with. This is no different:

I do agree with you to some extent. It is impossible for humans to prove the actual “age” of the extinct dinosaur remains. When scientists try to “determine” the age of the dinosaur remains by soil composition and “carbon dating” etc, I just shake my head. Anybody can make an assumption about life that way. It is also impossible for humans to determine exactly how old the history of mankind is as well. Remember, in the early days of creation, people lived much longer then we do now. Of course they did. Adam lived for 930 years, and his son Seth lived for 912 years. Before the flood, many people lived well into their hundreds. There was a wonderful balance of nature then. No pollution or anything “man-made” existed to destroy that balance. God knew what he was doing right from the very beginning. His creation and existence is perfection in itself – he is the superb mastercraftsman! I bow to his absolute genius…

It is mind-numbing in its stupidity. What on Earth is age doing in quotes? What is the idiot trying to say? Putting determine in sneer quotes – what is that all about? The whole answer manages to be so far from the truth it is almost beyond belief. It isn’t even internally consistent. Even in Biblical terms there were lots of man-made things before the flood – the Ark for example…

The wonders of the internet (and specifically web 2.0) push this stupidity to the top of a search engine query. The miracle of Web2.0 gives the asker the chance to give prominence to the madness that the person asking the question wants to be seen as the answer. Yes, if you scroll down you can find better answers but not everyone is going to do that and, crucially, when they have had their reasoning tainted by the initial two bits, they will be more sceptical of the truth than of the idiocy.

Web 2.0 is not about empowerment and it certainly is not about the shared wisdom of the masses. The tragedy of the commons seems so much more appropriate.

* I suspose this may be a specific problem to the Religion and Spirituality part of Yahoo Answers, but the other sections seem to be riddled with nutjob answers…

Weather for ducks and Drakes

According to wingnutdaily a baptist preacher – whose name (Wiley Drake) suggests that he is really a cartoon character – is praying for his god to rain on Obama.

DENVER – The call for prayer for a rainstorm on this city’s football stadium when Sen. Barack Obama delivers his nomination-acceptance speech there next week, dropped by a Focus on the Family Action personality, has been picked up by a former official of the Southern Baptist Convention. (from wingnut World net daily)

(The pastor’s worldview is almost glorious in the depths of its craziness. The logic seems to be:
Beg hard enough and the “creator of the universe” will take the side of the political party you support.

Despite believing that he’s asking for help from a being who commands the power of the universe, Drake doesn’t ask his deity to relegate Obama to the Delta Quadrant or turn him into a snail.

No, Drake asks his god to use his supposedly infinite power just to make Obama’s supporters bring umbrellas. What? Call that smiting? How unambitious is that?

I foresee a bit of danger here for the Wiley Drake. Surely, if god expresses his political views through the weather, a sunny day would show that the maker of the Universe actually supports Obama?)

Wiley, as it happens, your prayers were answered, but your inept rain-god missed and smited the UK with the biblical rain instead. Call off the hallelulahs now, please. We don’t even have a vote in your election. The UK “summer” is traditionally shit, but, for the past few years, it would be more accurate to just refer to it as the “rainy season.” (Except that every other season could already lay good claim to the title.) Northern Ireland was the most recent place on these islands to undergo widespread flooding.

The people who first called for this action were Focus on the Family. They’ve now claimed their call for torrential rain was “mildly humorous”. I love the novel use of the word “mildly” when accuracy might have demanded the use of “not at all.”

Drake, an activist who has been targeted by opponents of his Christian ministry for using his own radio program to discuss moral issues in the public arena, said he was saddened to see Focus pull the video………
“I, too, am still against killing babies and allowing sodomites to marry. Anyone wishing to join those of us who believe in imprecatory prayer (for divine justice) are invited to join,” he said. (same impeccable source)

“Imprecatory prayer?” That’s just pastor jargon for cursing.* Obviously, the word “moral” is also being used in some new counter-intuitive sense.

Luckily for any Democrats who might forget to bring raincoats or umbrellas to Obama’s Denver acceptance speech, cursing is no more effective than praying…..

The BBC has a direct line straight to the mind of the weather god. They’ve published a Denver prophecy that 3 of the next five days will be sunny and two will be rainy. However, the omens aren’t clear enough for the BBC’s chief weather-augur to predict more than 5 days ahead.

Demconwatch have an even better prophecy – better in that it refers to the actual date of the nomination-acceptance, if I’m interpreting it rightly. And that prophecy is for really good weather.

* Don’t just take my word for it. The free online dictionary defines “imprecatory” as the adjectival form of :

im·pre·cate (mpr-kt) tr.v. im·pre·cat·ed, im·pre·cat·ing, im·pre·cates
To invoke evil upon; curse.

Faith Blinds

(Old news from the department of simple answers)

My time away has meant that some of the weird and wonderful nonsense over the last few weeks has escaped the harsh light of reality. Take this little blinder posted by Joanna Sugden to the Times Online on 2 May 08.

The article is titled: “Is the Bible science fiction?

Simple answer: “Yes” (Or slight variation: “No, it is fantasy fiction”)

Why is there any need for more debate? Strangely, debate there is… As you can imagine, the article talks about “debate” as to the veracity of Noah’s Ark. It seems that some people over the age of six actually think that two of every species on Earth was crammed into the Ark to survive a world flood. Wonderfully, IMDB list a film about this under “Science Fiction Literature” which I think is a GoodThing™.
Equally great is the predictable response of the loonies.

The first to kick it off is Rick Beekman who is certainly a “person of faith” (and, I suspect with no real evidence, an American):

I believe the story of Noah’s Ark. I also believe all the stories in The Bible.
The ones who don’t believe it are the usual group of scoffers..Atheists..Secular Humanists.Those Who generally think everything has an Explanation based on their worldly but non-spiritual understanding of Events in the Bible they deem “Impossible”.

Word salad. This is nothing but an assertion of his belief with an appeal to ridicule against anyone who disagrees. The unusual capitalisation is always a good sign of a nutjob – I hope he doesn’t have access to firearms. After this start, he continues:

The reason for these stories is to teach we lowly humans what God has done..And what he can and will do.

Scary. I find myself agreeing with the insane. Dear Toutatis save me. Actually, the bit I agree with is the reason of the story. They are not supposed to be factual representations of the past. They are there to “teach” (for want of a better word) people about their belief system. This subtle fact is lost on Rick – despite the fact he worded it in quite a good way, I suppose that was just chance. (Monkeys, typewriters…) Anyway, after a bit more drivel he finishes off:

In Genesis 8 v 4 we read where the Ark rested upon Mt. Ararat as the waters receded.
Sattelite Photos confirm taken in 1972 that something very large is encased in Ice on top of that Mountain.
How could any large Ship get up there unless Water rested it there as The Bible says?

WTF? Seriously, what sort of insane leap of faith is this? How did “something” become a “large ship” in the space of a full stop? Quantum physics be damned! (Why is water capitalised?) Critically, why have none of the ultra rich evangelical groups over the world got a more recent ultra high res photograph to confirm – or just gone there on an expedition? Madness like this gives me a headache.

My faith in human nature is restored by a run of sensible comments, but then Rick returns:

John;
God our Creator can do whatever he pleases. He usually does things to suit his purposes not necessarily for what we think. He knows The end from the beginning. God could have chosen to just let everyone drop dead except the chosen animals etc and of course Noah and his family. There is no human now or past or in the future who is any match for the Wisdom and creator.

Ah the way of the madness runs true in this one. This at least shows there is no science in the bible or in creationism. Basically this is Rick saying he doesn’t care what feeble evidence there is, he knows his Invisible Friend can do things other people can’t. Well done Rick. There are seven year olds kicking themselves in shame at this…

More sensible refutations are made – thank Heimdall for the human race – then someone called CESEELEY chimes up with their own brand of wisdom:

One of the main points of stories like Noah’s Ark is to help one from the Old Testament into the New Testament so that one will learn to walk in the Spirit after being Born Again, Baptized and given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Ah, here come the erratic capital letters. Wonderful. Still it is all gibberish.

Our bodies were designed by God to be guided by the Holy Spirit. That is what those scripture about the Holy Temple imply.

Eh? Is this going anywhere? This is more drivel – why use 1 word to say something when eight hundred and ninety four will do… Comments on Times Online are moderated so a human actually decided this was relevant enough to the thread to let through (and about 50% of mine get knocked back… hmmm).

If you want to experience the more Abundant Life that Christ promised and have become Born Again and Baptized by immersion, then start taking Roman 12:1-2 seriously in your life so that you can prove what is God’s perfect will for your life as compared to His permissive will.

Ok, I’ll stop here. It doesn’t get any better. It is just a string of meaningless drivel with little relevance to the topic other than it seems to want every one to become a Born Again lunatic. I am a touch confused about his “perfect will” being different from his “permissive will” though…

Not to be out lunatic’d, Rick returns:

To All;
Seems I am the only one on this thread who believes the Story of Noah And His Ark.

God, I hope so…

I guess God Really did’nt ask Adam to name all the animals Either..(Genesis 2 verses 19 & 20).

Well done for taking a step in the right direction. Why did God let Adam name the echnida such a bloody awkward name? Oh right, he didn’t because Adam would never have seen one..

According to the “Experts” on this thread there is no possible way God could have brought all the animals to Adam from all over so Adam could name them.

Erm, yep. See, after a while everyone starts to agree with the lunatics.

Another one has stated the story of the flood is a Babylonian myth.

Yes, some one did state that. I thought they were being charitable instead of just calling Rick insane. Obviously Rick just likes using words, because he doesn’t even try to refute the claims any more – he just repeats them. He does, however, save the best till last:

I Just Wanted All Of You To Know All Of You Are Dead Wrong…But the Good News Is I’m Not Upset And Love All Of You!!

Wonderful. Don’t you just love the shift key… How would we spot lunatics without it.

Tricky Stats

One of the letters in this weeks New Scientist reports the reassuring facts that, despite the antics of various school boards and the attempts of numerous kook religion sites, Creationism is in decline. This is good news, and personally I would like nothing more than to think it was true – in fact if you base your analysis on my personal experience, then hardly anyone believes the creationist nonsense.

Sadly, I am not (yet) fully convinced that this is the true description of the world.

Now, the letter in NS helpfully produces some figures to support its claim. This is nearly always a good thing but this time it seems to be a touch confusing. Look at this:

Since the 1980s in the US the fundamentalist opinion that Adam and Eve were created a few thousand years before the pyramids has held fairly steady at between 43 and 47 per cent, with the lowest value occurring in 2007.

OK, it seems reasonable to take from that sentence the idea that creationism fluctuates around 45%, give or take 2%. While it is reassuring to see creationism is at its lowest last year, that is not really a decline.

Interestingly the numbers are compared with:

The number believing in human evolution under the guidance of God has stayed between 35 and 40 per cent.

The number agreeing with the scientific consensus that evolution occurred without a god has risen from 9 or 11 per cent at the end of the 20th century to a high of 14 per cent in 2007.

Sadly, this is less reassuring. I am not sure how three effectively stable sets of numbers can be used to show creationism is in decline. Equally, (admittedly ignoring the variation with the start figure of proper evolution) the numbers all show basically the same variation. Going from 11% to 14% is not a significant change when 47% – 43% is described as “fairly steady.”

As far as I can see, from the three sets of figures here, the numbers are all basically “steady.” All have about a 5% spread which seems to fluctuate. This is, in itself, not a downward trend for creationism.

Can anyone else show more positive figures?

Equally lacking in comfort to the rational is the information that, in the worlds only superpower, a nation with the ability to destroy every living person:

Remarkably, the number taking the Bible literally has steadily sunk from about 40 per cent in the 1970s – nearly matching those who then favoured the Genesis story – to between a third and a quarter.

So, at best, 25% of people still take the Bible literally. Wow. Scary wow.

Turning the other cheek?

An advert on Wingnut Daily leads to “The ultimate biblical exploration of self-defence”, a book with the title Shooting Back also available as “an exciting DVD.”

What would you do if armed terrorists broke into your church and starting attacking your friends with automatic weapons in the middle of a worship service?

Well, that is one form of terrorist attack that is never going to affect us non-believers….. You might therefore think a common-sense solution to that imaginary scenario for phobic believers might be to maybe stop going to church, but this book doesn’t go down that route….

It’s advice for his fellow worldnutters from a South African who was in a church that was attacked in 1993. (Don’t ask me if it was one of those extremist Terre-Blanche-style-white-hate-”churches” because they don’t actually mention that small detail. )

….But van Wyk was not defenseless that day. Had he been unarmed like the other congregants, the slaughter would have been much worse.
“Instinctively, I knelt down behind the bench in front of me and pulled out my .38 special snub-nosed revolver, which I always carried with me,” he writes in “Shooting Back,” a book being published for the first time in America next month by WND Books. “I would have felt undressed without it. Many people could not understand why I would carry a firearm into a church service, but I argued that this was a particularly dangerous time in South Africa.”

Many people indeed might not understand why someone would carry a firearm into a church service.

(I am a mite distracted by the odd physical conformation of someone who is naked without a gun. How much human flesh can a gun cover? Is he a really odd shaped human? Is it a pretty large gun like an anti-aircraft weapon. That might cover enough flesh to constitute an article of clothing. However, it would be hard for it to pass unnoticed by even the dumbest church-attackers.

If he put the gun behind a bench, was he was therefore conceptually naked in his church? No, my misunderstanding. The gun wasn’t behind the bench. To cover his conceptual nakedness effectively, it must have been stashed somewhere about his person that he couldn’t get at without having to do the modest thing and get behind a bench. )

Now, maybe I am being a bit too biblically literal here but from my school Religious Knowledge lessons, I don’t remember much in the New Testament about fighting back with maximum firepower? I thought it was all about loving thine enemies and turning the other cheek. My misunderstanding. That was another New Testament altogether.

But, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. In fact I’ll see his paranoid advice and raise it.

I myself feel in a state of mortal terror unless I’m armed with at least a couple of dozen inter-continental ballistic weapons. I mean, you never know when you might come under attack and have to protect innocents around you. So I always feel that a few medium-to-long range nuclear weapons gives you all the security you need. Why stop at carrying mere hand-guns into church?

And indeed, what utopian fool would go anywhere without wearing at least an NBC suit over a set of Kevlar underwear? And carrying a light submachine gun. We live in a dangerous world.

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]

Ray Comfort – Did I miss something?

Amazingly, it seems not everyone thinks Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron made fools of themselves during the debate with the “Rational Response Squad.” It has been mentioned on this blog, Nullfidian’s Blog and Pharyngula if you want to read more / watch the footage.

I should point out, the footage is painful. Comfort / Cameron are broadly clueless and debate in the style of 10 year olds (as do the RRS, but at least they are young and enthusiastic). Comfort claims to be able to prove the existence of God without using the bible, but opens the book pretty much every time. The whole crux of the theist argument is an appeal to fear. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Oddly, despite this, some theists think Comfort did well. Seriously. And more than one theist crackpot thinks this… On the Shepherds Scrapbook site, the post begins:

Ray Comfort’s “debate” happened this afternoon (watch here). I’m at least very thankful for his presentation of the gospel message, although he said he would not open his Bible.

Amazing really. Theists are wonderful creatures, I just don’t think I can eat one whole.

[tags]Atheism, Belief, Theism, God, Religion, Debate, Rational Response Squad, Christians, Bible, Philosophy, Society, Culture, Logic, Arguments, Logical Fallacy, Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort, Stupidity, Woo[/tags]

Rapture

A quick comment for now. I have had the [mis]fortune to have spent a bit of time looking round some crackpot theist sites today and quite a few have had a cool little icon which shows the chance of the rapture taking place. There seem to be a few sources of these so all have different scores and methods of scoring.

One thing they seem to have in common, is the wording on the icons. It talks about the “Risk” of Rapture.

Now I may be being old fashioned, but doesn’t “Risk” seem to talk of a BADTHING happening? Shouldn’t these devout, church-going, anti-gay, anti-abortionist, anti-Rock and Roll theists be looking forward to the rapture?

Evolution – Humour or Crank?

Once more, the Great Tuatatis has guided me to some more erratic websites (I suspect I actually found it as a link on someone else’s blog, but unfortunately I cant remember who to tip my hat to, sorry).

Anyway, however it happened, on the phs1966.com blog, there is a post called “Can we really call evolution science.” It is a short post, so I will copy it here in full: Continue reading

Cop Out of the Month – March 07

Is there potential for a new “feature” here? Reading through a variety of news sites and the like, I came across an article on newsweek (I would hat tip whichever atheist blog sent me there, but I can’t remember who covered it – sorry). On this article, there is something which strikes me as one of the “best” theistic cop-outs I’ve read in March 07. So, (drum roll) ladies and gentlemen, I present for your reading pleasure the Theistic Cop Out of the Month for March 2007:

[Newsweek] Is the Bible inerrant?
[Rick Warren]: I believe it’s inerrant in what it claims to be. The Bible does not claim to be a scientific book in many areas.
(read original)

don’t you just love empty sayings like that?

Are All Atheists The Same?

I was browsing through the excellent posts on “The Atheist Jew” website recently and I came across one entitled “Atheism as a theory,” which is very interesting but posts some points I really do not agree with. The crux of them come from the Top 10 Atheist Myths website, so it is there I turn the rest of my attention.

, in my mind, is nothing more (or less) than the absence of any belief in any supernatural entity. You can call the entity Thor, Odin, Bahommet, Azura Madhra, Pluto, Set, Bast, Hermes, God, Allah, Vishnu or whatever. I still dont believe in it.

That pretty much sums up everything have in common. Other than that, they are “normal” people just like a theist. There are Atheists who do bad things, there are Atheists who do good things. There are Atheists who are irrational, just as there are ones who are rational. Atheism is an opinion about one aspect of your interaction with reality and, as such, cant really be used to determine any other aspects.

Ok, so there is “my” take on atheism. On the “Top 10 Myths” site, there are a list of the top ten (oddly enough…) so I will repeat them here:

  • Myth 1 : “Atheists are all the same”
  • Myth 2 : “Atheists have no morals, since they don’t believe in God”
  • Myth 3 : “Atheists believe in evolution, but that doesn’t answer as many questions as creationism”
  • Myth 4 : “Atheists cannot know there is no God, since you cannot prove he doesn’t exist”
  • Myth 5 : “Atheists seek to remove religion from society, and to force all people to be atheists”
  • Myth 6 : “Atheists are so closed-minded, they can’t see that miracles happen every day!”
  • Myth 7 : “Atheists are pushing a negative sentiment, and have a dreary life”
  • Myth 8 : ” If atheists are right, then religious people are wasting their time, but at least they’re happy. No harm in that! If religious people are right, then atheists are going to hell. It seems logical that atheists should become religious just to be safe.”
  • Myth 9 : “There are no such things as atheists” a.k.a. “There are no atheists in foxholes”
  • Myth 10 : “This country was founded by Christians, on Christian values, and should therefore be a Christian country”.

Now, it doesn’t take the most imagination in the world to see how these myths are, in fact, all flawed and Dave Silverman’s website does a good job of dismissing them (myth 10 is obviously very specific for the US so I will ignore it for now).

There is a common thread which runs through all the myths, and it is the theistic assumption that all Atheists think the same. This is the same lack of logical thought which leads people to assume is the “pope” of Atheism. As logical thought goes, it is more than wrong.

Sadly, despite Dave Silverman’s otherwise excellent commentary, he makes the same mistake himself a few times. For example, in response to Myth 2 he writes: (emphasis in original, underlining mine)

Humans have the idea of right and wrong imbedded in them by their own brains, as well as their upbringing and society. Atheists do good, not out of fear of reprisal, but because it’s the right thing to do. We value family, society, culture, and, of course, freedom. Many of us will – and have – defend these values with our lives.

While personally, I do think I value family, society, culture and freedom, I also think it is a stretch of reality to imply all Atheists do. There are atheists who are simply nasty people. Being an atheist does not mean you hold yourself to a higher standard and there is no Holy Book Of Atheism to tell people how to live their lives. Just like theists, atheists are a mixture of people. The main difference (in my opinion) is that Atheists are a LOT less hypocritical.

I may be out of order, but I get the suspicion that Dave Silverman is an ex-Christian/Jewish Atheist, which seems to come through in his comments. For example, in response to myth 8, he writes:

I like getting this question. I sense another list coming :

1) Drug addicts go through life happy, so would theists suggest we all use drugs and stay home? We would be happy, and not hurting anybody, so where’s the harm?
The harm is the same for believers. They go through life happy, but it’s a false, wasteful happiness. Atheists get happiness from family, contribution to society, charity, and truth.

2) Religious people should not be lumped into one category for this question. Remember, religions are also biased against each other (Jews vs. Catholics Vs. Protestants, etc), so no matter what religion the speaker follows, most of the world thinks they’re going to hell (or other punishment), just like atheists. Ask them which religion has the worst punishment, and whether they would convert to that religion on that one factor, just in case they’re right. When they tell you how absurd that question is, remind them that they asked it first.

3) To convert and practice a specific religion just to ingratiate yourself with God and avoid going to hell is pure, self-serving greed, which is one of the seven deadly
sins. Therefore, by their own thinking, even if they are right and I do convert, I’d go to hell anyway, along with everyone else in the flock whose actions are so motivated (possibly including the speaker).

All very much along the Abrahamic religions lines. In reality, this myth is a variation on Pascals Wager and can generally be dismissed in much simpler terms (and was mentioned here previously).

All in all, both sites are interesting and worth visiting, they just have a different view on Atheism to myself – which goes to show, all atheists are different!