The Atheist Thirteen

It has been a while, but it seems we’ve been hit by another “meme” – this time it is the Atheist Thirteen from Nullifidian. For anyone who has already read Null’s post, I must apologise that a lot of the responses are similar.

(Null, if you read this – why is it called “Atheist 13” when there are 10 questions?)

Rules: If you’d like to take part, copy these questions, and answer them in your own words on your own blog.

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?

“A lack of belief in anything divine.”

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?

Not at all. While Religious Education at school talked about the various religions there was never anything resembling a serious effort to convince me any particular religion was more valid than any other (or even more valid than no-religion at all). This is the case even though I went to Church Sunday school for quite a time.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?


Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?

Astrophysics and related disciplines – astronomy, space travel etc. (I only picked astrophysics because Null beat me to Astronomy).

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?

I’d like people to stop talking about an “atheist community” as if it were a homogeneous group that shared more than a single idea. I cant think of any real meaning of “community” that seems to apply to the global network of atheists.

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?

“That’s nice, dear. Would you like a cup of tea?”

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

God is really kind and benevolent but if you dont bow to his ever wish, no matter how capricious, you will suffer worse punishment than you can imagine for all of eternity. It is self refuting unless the person is a genuine idiot – and then it isnt worth refuting. Just wait until they forget to breathe and die.

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

That there isn’t an Atheist Community.

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?

Dawkins because, although I used to hate him, he has grown on me. I like his “posh English scientist” TV demeanour. Hitchens is too arty and there isn’t enough scientific rigour in his comments. Harris really annoys me and I don’t know Dennett well enough.

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?

The Pope, because it would be a MAJOR achievement… (Unless he is, as I sometimes suspect, not really a Catholic).

Now name three other atheist blogs that you’d like to see take up the Atheist Thirteen gauntlet:

This is always the hard part. There are zillions of good atheist blogs but tagging them all would be close to insane. There are a lot of good ones who will be annoyed if they are tagged and a lot of good ones who will be annoyed if they aren’t tagged. For this, almost insurmountable, challenge I have picked three from our blogrolls at random:

  1. The gorgeously designed and always entertaining “X is …
  2. The Snarling and Growling “Grumpy Lion
  3. The militant Bligbi.

Please don’t be upset if you have been missed out – if you want to be tagged, consider yourself tagged. Likewise, if you are one of the three above and don’t want to be tagged, I am OK with that.

Preach the Controversy…

The nonsense, and false controversy, created by Expelled just seems to never want to go away. In this respect the Discovery Institute really hit on to a winner with what could best be described as a poor first attempt by an art student film. Atheist and science blogs have been discussing the nonsense for what seems like eternity. I cant imagine how anyone could even begin to pay for this amount of publicity but there you go. Sadly, I actually feel that all this furore around the crap film is actually required.

Gorilla's EyesOnce upon a time I was optimistic about the human race. In this mindset I would have thought to myself “everyone seeing this film will realise it is total bullshit and ignore it.” I have, sadly, learned to think differently. When nonsense is placed into the public domain it can be either challenged or ignored. By challenging it the nonsense rises to the status of “controversy” and there is (in the public mind at least) the concept of a debate taking place. By ignoring it, the unthinking public begin to think it has merit and it slowly becomes an accepted “truth.” It really is a lose:lose situation for rational science. I can not think of a way to avoid the nonsense taking over the Earth, but at least, where I can, I will try to challenge it.

With this in mind, I came across a gorgeous picture of an American church on flickr. This is a very attractive picture so please, take a moment to visit and have a look – if you have a flickr account, please let the photographer know what you think of the picture (and he has a pretty good photostream).

It all went downhill, however, when I read the description of the picture.

Freedom of thought and expression are two of the most basic tenants of any free society.
Without those two things, you do not have a free society.

Well, I pretty much agree. They may well not be the most basic tenets of society but freedom of expression is very important. On a pedantic note, I cant see how (realistically) you can take away someone’s freedom of thought until mind-reading becomes commonplace.

We went to a must see movie this weekend. In Ben Stein’s (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”) new documentary movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed Ben shows how little academic freedom exists in our universities if you want to discuss unpopular topics like the origins of life. (links removed here but intact on the original)

Ouch. And he had got off to such a good start. Notice how this brings in the Creationist stand-by of creating the false associations with “academic freedom” and “unpopular topics”? Creationism / ID relies on trickery to convince the unthinking that it is a legitimate “alternative” and some secret cabal are trying to repress it. The “freedom” word is thrown around whenever someone tries to point out is not science to the extent that the average non-scientist actually thinks it is an oppressed viewpoint. Amazing really.

Much of the academic world thinks that the conversation should be closed because Darwinian Evolution has answered all of those questions… But, is that true????

Another creationist gem. This is a great question because it is massively false. No scientist, especially evolutionary biologists, think the conversation should be closed. That is the claim made by the creationists. However, this 180 degree spin goes a long way to masking that.

If you do not think that is true as a professor, get ready to loose you job. Yes, that politically incorrect thought has been banned in the university… I thought the university was a place of open discussion and thought???? Think again…

And here is the first falsehood. No professor who thinks the question about origins of species is not closed would lose their job. A professor who is so confused about their subject area as to think Creationism is an “alternative” to evolution should lose their job in the same manner that a physics professor who thinks the luminiferous ether exists, and propagates light, should lose their job. Imagine a woodwork teacher who thought you could cut would with butter, should he remain teaching? No. But not because “politically incorrect thought has been banned.”

Further on, as part of a short debate, the photographer comments:

You are exactly what the movie was talking about… you just to creationism the moment that intelligent design is brought up…
and you assume that all tenants of darwinian evolution are true..
and you think they are well defined….
Darwinian evolition is a mess… It is not science in the least…

More weirdness. Creationism is ID. No one assumes all the tenets of “Darwinian Evolution” are true, no one even assumes all the “tenets” of Evolution are true. That is not what science is about. The odd bit is the claim that Evolution is not science… I really struggle to get my head round the idea that people can honestly think Creationism Intelligent Design is “good science” compared to evolution. Where is the falsifiability? Where are the predictions?

After a while others join in the debate with things like this (from an otherwise reasonable person):

All that said, Wayne I completely agree that the way the discussion is silenced in academia is shameful. When scientist trot out the “earth is flat” idea they forget that at one time “scientiist” accepted that idea too. In other words, the commonly accepted “facts” might be wrong.

Argh. Do people honestly think that the academic world should engage in constant debate over all possible alternatives to a scientific theory? When did scientists EVER think the world was flat?

The last point I want to make before I remind everyone to go and look at the picture themselves is based on this:

We know from the second law of thermodynamics (entropy) stuff always breaks down and degrades…. macro evoution requires more information to be added to produce more complex things…. second law of thermodynamics directly contratics that…. btw.. this is a law… meaning it always happen… not a theory like evolution…

Ouch. That good old standby the 2nd law. Obviously the Earth lives in isolation from the rest of the universe and no information (energy) can be added. Damn that Sun…

The best bit is the Law / Theory nonsense. Do people really not understand how the words work? Obviously not, because when challenged on the matter, our creationist photographer responded:

With all due respect, you are wrong about scientific law and theory.
You can read here and a million other places…

Argh. Such madness, especially as the link doesn’t really support his claim but I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to try an educate him.

Please, take a moment to visit the Flickr photo page. It is a nice picture and the more sensible, reasonable and educational comments he get, the greater the chance he (or others) will learn something. If the nonsense is ignored, then the nonsense prospers.

Anti-Israel does not equal anti-Jew

Atheist defends Dawkins. Shock, horror. (OK, not.) Still the Times has an unpleasant piece by Daniel Finkelstein in which he distorts something Dawkins said in the Guardian in order to misrepresent Dawkins as anti-semetic.

So Dawkins, a liberal hero, believes, er, that Jews control world power. And, judging from the Guardian, it is now a part of mainstream debate to say so. Perhaps you think I am over-reacting, but I am a little bit frightened.

Well no. What Dawkins actually said is that atheists need some organisation analogous to the Jewish lobby, which had proved its success by the fact that it had managed to

more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see.

It seemed obvious to several commentators that
(a) US foreign policy seemed more than a little pro-Israel;
(b) this is not even explicable in terms of the US’s own national interests (oranges versus oil, as one commentator remarked);
(c) it reflects the influence of pro-Israeli American lobbyists and people in power.

This is a huge leap away from saying that Jews monopolise world power, as the blog headline and comments said. However, this misrepresentation of Dawkins was taken by some Times commentators as a given. And stuck together with a self-evidently ludicrous claim that Dawkins wanted to take children away from their parents if the parents taught them religion. To make a general attribution of Dawkins really being a Nazi.

I know. I know. This sort of thing doesn’t even bear recognising as a rational discourse. But still, I think it is worth repeating ad nauseam that opposing Israel does not make one a Nazi.

The Jews suffered terribly in Germany. Why didn’t they get given Germany? They didn’t suffer anything at the hands of the Palestinians. Why did they get Palestine? Well, partly because they carried out a prolonged terrorist campaign against the British government to get it.

Terrorist campaign, note. The British government gave in.

If the USA had not been committed over decades to supporting everything that Israel did, ignoring the complaints of the Palestinians as their land was taken and they were turned into refugees in their own country, there would be no insane jihadists now.

The only quarrel I would have with Dawkins in this is that atheists don’t have an agreed agenda beyond removing religious influence from the public sphere. What else would be the point of atheist lobbyists? Remember the herding cats thing? The capacity to think independently is the strength of rational people, not their weakness.

The Rise of Creationism

Oddly, until a few years ago I had never even heard of Intelligent Design or Creationism. I put this down to having gone to a good, high quality, school and having as my main circle of friends intelligent and educated people.

I can honestly say that prior to discovering the American madness, I was blissfully unaware that anyone really thought there was any grounds for this to be thought of as sensible, let alone a legitimate scientific topic. I think my first encounters with the madness idea called ID came around the turn of the millennium. How things have changed in the last seven years.

The idea that, in 1999, there was a mainstream awareness of ID / Creationism in the UK is laughable. It was certainly never even alluded to while I was at school – it might have been hinted at in Religious Education classes, but even then it was done with an understanding it wasn’t “real.”I have friends who have gone on to be teachers and university types – who all studied around the end of the 1990s, and they support my recollections that ID/Creationism was virtually unheard of in the UK at that time.

Now, however, things are different.

Reading the BBC Education news draws a frightening picture, with an article titled “Teachers Fear Evolution Lessons.” The BBC piece is well worth reading, and begins:

The teaching of evolution is becoming increasingly difficult in UK schools because of the rise of creationism, a leading scientist is warning.

Head of science at London’s Institute of Education Professor Michael Reiss says some teachers, fearful of entering the debate, avoid the subject totally.

This generates two reactions in me. Sadly for teachers (and my closest friend is a biology teacher), neither cast teachers in a good light.

First off, since when have teachers been “fearful” of entering a debate with their students? What crazy world is this we live in. If a teacher is incapable, or unwilling, to debate with a student who disagrees with what they are saying then they are not teachers. Do teachers want to simply teach robotic children who soak up every single thing they are taught without question or challenge? I honestly hope not.

Secondly, why are teachers allowing these ideas to spread in the first place? It seems teacher-spokespersons (often self appointed I presume) will regularly come up with some news worthy diatribe about how teachers are being prevented from teaching because parents are allowing their kids to be unruly, eat the wrong food, watch too much TV etc. Surely this is really not something the teachers can blame others for. If teachers were doing their job properly, then people would understand how creationism is nonsense and could get on with the task of learning science.

Anyway, going back to my original point, when did creationism become such a big thing in the UK. We were once (as social “scientist” Heather will keep reminding me) a more secular nation than Communist Russia where religion was outlawed. This is now, obviously, consigned to the dust bin of history, but I am curious as to when / why this change took place. Did the internet and Americanisation of our culture cause it? Does the vast amount of Polish immigrants cause it? Does any one know? Read the article and let me know what you think.

[tags]Education, Teachers, Biology, Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, ID, Darwin, Dawkins, Science, Religion, Belief, Madness, Society, Culture, Secular, Christian, UK, Michael Reiss, London’s Institute of Education, Teaching, Educational Standards, Nutcases[/tags]

Best friends forever

What is it about dogs? The evidence suggests that the human race is bent on getting revenge on the dog species for our traditional fear of wolves.

A true horror story involving a 5-year-old girl and an abused dog that killed her has made chunks of the news unwatchable since New Year’s Eve. This story has come to an end with the acquittal of her grandmother for negligent manslaughter but “killer dogs” still remain an issue.

Dog fighting is an underground activity for which dogs are specifically bred and “trained” Banned dogs sometimes get seized, whenever there is spurt of public concern. The dogs usually get killed, unsurprisingly, given that they have been turned into blameless homicide machines. In that particular story, it is claimed that:

Two dogs, described as dangerous by the USPCA, training equipment and manuals were seized in the Village area.
The raids followed information received after a recent Spotlight/Panorama programme.
The 17-month investigation uncovered 15 illegal dog fighting gangs in Northern Ireland.

15? In Northern Ireland? Population? According to Wikipedia, it has the population of reasonable-sized city, 1,710,300.

I suppose dog-fighting is a minor misdemeanour in a place where murder and kneecapping are everyday experiences. Still, 15 dog-fighting gangs seems a high number for what you would hope was very much a minority interest, given that they would also need a pretty sizeable supporting population of willing attenders at dog-fights.

I am not suggesting the Northern Irish are any more psychopathic than the general population of the UK, here. Where I live, the number of dogs that exist solely to look brutal when snarling at the leashes of would-be “gangstas” almost defies belief.

I don’t want to go down the route of rightly-discredited Freudian bullshit here but I will anyway. The way that people use dogs speaks too loudly about their own feelings about being male or female. Or, more precisely, their fear of not being “masculine” or “feminine” enough to fit the current stereotypes.

The cupiditous-moron-model female carries about an offensively “cute” mini-child dog, with a bow on its head. She’s saying “Look at me. I’m so cute and cuddly and loving. And I’m so appealingly childlike that I carry round a living teddy.”

The would-be-tough-brute-model male drags around a creature that looks as if it’s been dragged up from the Hammer-horror pits of hell. He’s saying “Look at me. I’m so macho and tough that only I can handle this rabid cur. I’m basically an animal myself.”

Yes, it’s tragically pathetic, but I also suspect that it shows why getting ever greater control over human reproduction is potentially very dangerous. We are basically not a very rational species.

If dogs had the level of rationality that we (often mistakenly) imagine that humans have, they would be cursing those ancestral wolves who traded life with their own packs for the easy pickings they could get from allying themselves to our species.

Does anyone else feel unnerved seeing our species gaining more and more control over what our descendants become, when they see what a dog’s breakfast we’ve made of the humble dog? In this context, there was a very short Sunday Herald article by Dawkins that I really have to take issue with. He was makinga point that the association of Hitler with eugenics shouldn’t in itself stop us contemplating it. He said that

But if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability? Objections such as “these are not one-dimensional abilities” apply equally to cows, horses and dogs and never stopped anybody in practice.

There are two points here. Firstly, humans generally do breed selectively and always have. We just use criteria of appearance and similarity of interests, etc., to make those “choices.” These choices are already often bad enough. But at least, nature mixes up our DNA to throw up unexpected results. It’s evolution in action.

But, as a more specific argument against even greater deliberate human control over reproduction, I am suggesting that the evidence of the dog, in itself (bred now for its bizarre appearance or its assumed willingness to fight, rather than its herding skills) answers this question well enough.

We are humans. Even the brightest and most well-meaning of us have only the vaguest idea about the long-term consequences of our actions. Our own species is quite disturbed enough already.

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

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]

Atheism and morality

This month’s New Scientist discusses God and morality. That link is more or less useless, though, unless you have a subscription. You have to buy the magazine to get more than the first few hundred words. (Or read this, written from the smug perspective of someone who can read it all.)

Referring to Dawkins and the many others who dispute that religion is the necessary source of morality:

Their views have recently been bolstered by evidence that morality appears to be hard-wired into our brains. It seems we are born with a sense of right and wrong, and that no amount of religious indoctrination will change our most basic moral instincts.

New Scientist doesn’t want to offend readers- atheists or theists – so the discussion is quite cagey, with a general suggestion that both religion and morality are mentally hardwired.

I followed their link to some 2005 Baltimore research by Gregory Paul that argues that societies with high rates of religious adherence are those that consistently have the worst social morality.

He concluded that countries with higher rates of belief and worship had higher rates of homicide, death among children and young adults, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy and abortion.

(New Scientist)

I like this paper so much, I’m going to post the abstract here and put the most salient bits in bold.

Large-scale surveys show dramatic declines in religiosity in favor of secularization in the developed democracies. Popular acceptance of evolutionary science correlates negatively with levels of religiosity, and the United States is the only prosperous nation where the majority absolutely believes in a creator and evolutionary science is unpopular. Abundant data is available on rates of societal dysfunction and health in the first world. Cross-national comparisons of highly differing rates of religiosity and societal conditions form a mass epidemiological experiment that can be used to test whether high rates of belief in and worship of a creator are necessary for high levels of social health. Data correlations show that in almost all regards the highly secular democracies consistently enjoy low rates of societal dysfunction, while pro-religious and antievolution America performs poorly.

Gregory Paul said that “In the United States many conservative theists consider evolutionary science a leading contributor to social dysfunction because it is amoral or worse, and because it inspires disbelief” This is fascinating. Who’d have thought that a scientific theory can be held accountable for people’s morality? “Sorry, Your Honour, but I was acting under the influence of the Second law of Thermodynamics.”

Van Jensen challenged Paul’s conclusions in another study, based on cross-cultural homicide rates research, arguing that dualistic theism – i.e. belief in God AND a Devil – is what you need to make a really murderous society.

There’s nothing really new in the argument that religion fosters immorality, though. Jensen refers to “Durkheim’s hypotheses that religious passion, as a variable characteristic of nations, is a positive correlate of homicide rates.” In English, that means: the more fanatical belief, the more murders. That’s Durkheim, born 1858 – died 1917, by the way. Some messages just don’t get through.

There’s much more interesting information in the New Scientist article. Researchers have looked at the subject from the perspectives of psychology, evolutionary biology, brain chemistry and more. Every piece of research could spark a full-scale post here, with ranting &/or raving at will.

If you are interested in religion and morality, it’s worth getting hold of a copy of New Scientist and following the links to the actual research papers.