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Thursday, 29 September 2011

A Universe From Nothing | Unreasonable Faith

Creationists won't watch this (Tweet this)

a) It tells them something they don't want to know and answers a question they don't want answered

b) It's far to long for their normal attention span of about 4 seconds.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Jesus the Sinner

Listening to his supports you'd think Jesus was pure and free from the sin we are all supposed to have inherited along with our humanity.  Mary was free from sin, having been 'immaculately conceived', and was still  a virgin when he was born, and Jesus' father was God, so he wasn't contaminated by any inherited paternal  or maternal sins, so Jesus was free from sin, so we are told.

But was he?

Baptism of Jesus
(Looks like there was some difficulty pushing him under).
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins

And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in Jordan.

Mark 1:4-9
So, if John was "preaching baptism of repentance for remission of sins" and part of that baptism was confession of sins, why did John need to baptize Jesus?

Obviously, the author of Mark thought Jesus was a sinner who needed to confess those sins and repent, and who are we to disagree... (Tweet this)





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Set a Trap to Catch a Fool

In Psalms 14:1 credulous believers are handed a useful slogan to use in lieu of rational thought: The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

They're handed another in Proverbs 26:11: As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.

You'll see Christian fundamentalists especially, still using these today, presumably assuming their targets are equally credulous.

And yet in Matthew 5:22 we see: ...but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire

Blimey!

I wonder what possessed God to set this trap to catch the foolish bigots who haven't read the Bible but like to pretend they have. (Tweet this)

And not so much as a hint of an escape clause... Nasty! Lucky it's just a story, eh?





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The Ancestor's Likely Tale.

LUKE 2.3-4. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

So, Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem because Joseph was descended from David, who lived about 1000 years earlier.

Obviously it was different for Joseph but I have a father, two grandfathers, four great grandfathers, eight great great grandfathers, 16 great great great grandfathers, etc.

With some four generations a century, forty in a thousand years, that gives me 1,099,511,627,776 (i.e. over 1 trillion) male ancestors who lived about 1000 years ago.

But, isn't that more than the population of the earth now, let alone then?

Okay, allow for a few marriages between cousins, second cousins, etc and say only a billion or so. Still more a than the population of the earth 1000 years ago. Well, let's be generous and say marriage between cousins, second cousins, third cousins, cousins once removed, etc, was common place and say I probably only had about a million, or maybe just a few hundred thousand male ancestors.

And I don't know anything about a single one of them with any certainty. Some of them could have been people we know about. It would be surprising if a few weren't. Apparently, most of us Europeans are descended from Charlemagne I, and a lot of us from Genghis Khan but most of them would have been complete nonentities who left no mark on history other than the genes they passed on and which eventually found themselves in me. (Thank you very much).

With that many ancestors, I could probably pick practically any town or village in England and probably most of Europe and a good deal of Central Asia, and claim it as my ancestral home.

But not so for Joseph, if we're to believe the Bible. Joseph only has ONE male ancestor from 1000 years ago, and he knew who that was and where he lived. He was King David from Bethlehem.

So too did the Roman authorities, it seems. How else would they check that no one had cheated and just popped down to the nearest town? And they knew it for everyone else in Judea, who also knew their (only) remote ancestor's home town. This is record-keeping far above what any modern, bureaucratic state can accomplish.

Blimey!

Can YOU name all the towns all your ancestors from 1000 years ago lived in? Do you know any of those ancestors' names?

A mystery, eh? No doubt Christians can explain this curious puzzle...

Monday, 26 September 2011

Twinkle, Twinkle.

Now here's a conundrum. (Tweet this)


MATT 2.9. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.


MATT 2.10. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.


So, this star stood over where the child was!


Don't take my word for it.  Go outside tonight, go some distance from your house and find a star that's over your house but not over any other.  


In fact, make it easier... find a star that's over your TOWN and not over any other...


I wonder how the 'wise men' managed it.


Still.  Can't see anyone getting away with a silly tale like this nowadays. (Tweet this)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

I Know It In My Heart

How did the authors of the Bible understand the function of the heart?
"... and thou the mightiest know the thoughts of thy heart"
Daniel 2:30

"... thou didst set thine heart to understand..."
Daniel 10:12

"The pride of thine heart has deceived thee..."
Obediah 1:3

"Why reason ye these things in your hearts?"
Mark 2:8

"... and shall not doubt in his heart..."
Mark 11:23

"And Jesus perceiving the thoughts of their hearts..."
Luke 9:47

"Why are ye troubled and why do thoughts arise in your heart?"
Luke 24:38
Quite clearly, they believed the heart is where thoughts occur and emotions are felt.

We now know that the heart is a muscular pump and its function is to pump blood round the body to supply it with nutrients and oxygen and to remove waste via the lungs, kidneys and liver. We now know that thinking is done in the brain. Curiously, the word 'brain' is nowhere to be found in the KJV Bible! You would have thought the Creator of Life would have known how its creation worked, yet even Jesus would have failed basic Anatomy and Physiology it seem.

I wonder how the Creator got things so hopelessly wrong... (Tweet this)


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Saturday, 24 September 2011

Science vs Religion - The Lesson from CERN

A couple of days ago, scientists working at CERN published a paper with data which seems to question one of the very fundamental principles upon which modern physics is built - that nothing can travel faster than the velocity of light in a vacuum (c).  They appear to have discovered that a fundamental particle - the neutrino - does, by a very small, but significant margin.

They have asked the scientific community to scrutinise and criticise their data and methodology, in short, to pull it apart and find fault with it. To crawl all over it, to shoot it down in flames whilst blowing it out of the water (mixed metaphor intended).

They have applied the basic principle of scientific honesty and integrity which understands that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and they have submitted their findings to peer review.

This is the principle which gives science its extraordinary power of discovery and self-correction. The principle is based on the intellectually honest and humble position that, we could be wrong; we are human and capable of making mistakes or allowing our biases to influence us.  Please look and tell us if we are wrong.

Can anyone see the similarity in their approach to that of exponents of religion, in particular to that of Creation 'scientists' to discoveries which cast doubt upon their fundamental beliefs?

In fact, one of their main governing bodies, the Institute for Creation Research, insists they swear an oath not to admit to anything which does.

Clearly, when religious people claim to hold a monopoly on moral integrity and presume to lecture the rest of us on it and on humility, they are thinking of something very different to that of normal intellectual honesty and humility, as practiced by scientists.

It's easy to see why science can be relied upon to tell the truth whereas religions only supply unreliable dogma. (Tweet this)


Friday, 23 September 2011

15 Answers for Creationists.

Written in reply to 15 Questions for Evolutionists.

This list of questions is depressing, not because they are difficult - any intermediate level biology student should be able to answer them with no more than a moments thought - but because they reveal the depths of ignorance, dishonesty and credulous stupidity on which Creationism relies. The questioner, apparently in all seriousness, believes these are difficult, killer knock-down questions which will challenge even the best of evolutionary biologists. Either that, or he imagines his target audience is that dishonest, ignorant and credulously stupid.

It would be funny, if it weren't so representative of so many semi-literate and willfully ignorant, yet politically active and dangerous individuals. These questions tell us a great deal about the cavalier approach of Creationists to truth and honesty.

No doubt they will not want to read these answers, preferring, as they do, to remain stoically and proudly ignorant of anything which might shake their 'unshakeable' faith.

Q1. How did life originate?

A1. The origin of replicators is not a question for Evolutionists since the Theory of Evolution (TOE) deals with how living organisms develop and diversify, not how they originated. However, this question can be, and is being, addressed by science. There are several theories which can be found by a search on Google.

The disingenuous nature of this question can be gauged from the following quote:

“Nobody knows how a mixture of lifeless chemicals spontaneously organized themselves into the first living cell.”

Of course, as the questioner probably knows, no serious TOE hypothesises this. The question is asked to mislead the credulous and gullible. The entire basis of any TOE is that organisms evolve slowly, over time, by a series of natural selection from amongst a population containing variations on a basic theme. Variation comes about by randomly imperfect replication. Evolution always occurs in a population, not in individuals. There was never any spontaneous self-organisation.

Most theories of the origin of replicator assume that RNA became involved early on in the process and self-replicating examples of RNA are known.

In fact, this is just another form of the God of the Gaps fallacy. The questioner is implying that, if science doesn’t know the answer now, a natural answer will never be known, and that the only possible explanation is a supernatural one.  This fallacy also  depends on the parochial ignorance of its target to assume that the only possible supernatural explanation is the one the questioner is pushing.

So, from the first question, we can see plainly how the questions are intended to mislead rather than to inform, and the contempt the questioner has for his target audience.

Maybe it gets better...

Q2. How did the DNA code originate?

A2. A shame the questioner didn’t leave it at that but then sought to mislead his target once again with:

“The code is a sophisticated language system with letters and words where the meaning of the words is unrelated to the chemical properties of the letters".

The real genetic code can be found here.

This shows just how little the questioner knows of the genetic code and how it works. It’s an infantile parody designed to mislead. This is the straw man fallacy. It’s also an example of the argument from personal ignorance fallacy and again, our old friend, the God of the Gaps.

Again, answers to this question can be quickly found with a search on Google.

So, we now know the questioner hasn’t bothered to look for answers to the questions he/she is asking or to learn about the subject he/she is attacking.

Q3. How could mutations—accidental copying mistakes (DNA ‘letters’ exchanged, deleted or added, genes duplicated, chromosome inversions, etc.)—create the huge volumes of information in the DNA of living things? How could such errors create 3 billion letters of DNA information to change a microbe into a microbiologist?

A3. The questioner seems not to know the difference between ‘information’ and ‘meaning'. There is also the, by now, customary, attempt to mislead. No one claims that a microbe mutated into a microbiologist. This infantile parody is an example of how Creationists set up straw men to throw their stones at, almost certainly because they know the real TOE is unassailable. It depends on the target audience’s ignorance about the real TOE, of course.

How, given the billions of years that living things have been around, a gradual process of diversification and change, directed by natural selection which inevitably selects for survivability, has produced all the different species and varieties we now have, is EXACTLY what the TOE explains.

In short, the questioner is covering his eyes and refusing to see the answer to this question, and is depending on his targets to be ignorant of the fact that this question is precisely what the TOE answers.

So we now know the questioner is abysmally ignorant of that which he/she attacks. Given the ready availability of information today, this ignorance must be either wilful or feigned. Either way, it is disingenuous and shows a scant regard for truth and honesty.

Q4. Why is natural selection, a principle recognized by creationists, taught as ‘evolution’, as if it explains the origin of the diversity of life?

A4. Because that's exactly what it does. Again, there is the attempt to mislead:

“By definition it is a selective process (selecting from already existing information), so is not a creative process".

True. No evolutionist clams that natural selection creates the variation upon which it acts. The claim is that natural selection selects for survivability from amongst the inherited variation in the population.

Note again the feigned or wilful ignorance of the real TOE and how a straw man was set up to attack, whilst trying to mislead the target about the real TOE.

Q5. How did new biochemical pathways, which involve multiple enzymes working together in sequence, originate?

A5. From simpler forms and by co-opting pre-existing structures for different or modified usage.

Again, a quick search on Google would have supplied the questioner with the answers he/she so obviously doesn’t want to find.

Q6. Living things look like they were designed, so how do evolutionists know that they were not designed?

A6. It’s a shame the questioner sought to over-egg his/her pudding with:

“The problem for evolutionists is that living things show too much design. Who objects when an archaeologist says that pottery points to human design?”

What exactly IS too much design? The problem here is that, when studied in detail, organisms are found to be full of imperfections, faults, inefficient structures, vast quantities of redundant DNA, etc. We also know that the ultimate fate of 99% of living organisms is extinction. One thing we can be sure of is that it was certainly not designed by any intelligent process. It looks exactly as we would expect if it were ‘designed’ by an unconscious, purposeless process, directed only by the utilitarian principle of whatever worked at the time, and in that environment. In short they look as though they evolved by an evolutionary process in which the environment selects for survivability.

The reason we know a pot was designed, by the way, is that pots don’t reproduce so there is no process which can select them for inherited ‘potness’ from amongst a population containing random variations on a ‘potty’ theme.

The questioner here reveals either wilful or feigned ignorance of basic biology. The temptation is to use the term ‘potty’ here...

Q7. How did multi-cellular life originate?

A7. Let’s deal quickly with the traditional attempt to mislead here:

“How did cells adapted to individual survival ‘learn’ to cooperate and specialize (including undergoing programmed cell death) to create complex plants and animals?"

Of course no one claims cells learn to cooperate. This is so laughably infantile I’m surprised even this questioner hoped to get away with it.

The answer to the basic question of course, is slowly over time, by an evolutionary process as described in the TOE. We know that muticellularity took a very long time to evolve.

This question is the equivalent of questioning the Theory of Gravity by claiming it can’t explain er... gravity. The abysmal ignorance here would be shocking if we weren’t used to it by now.

Here are the answers the questioner doesn’t want.

Q8. How did sex originate?

A8. Sexual reproduction greatly enhances the ‘evolvability’ of a population by constantly shuffling the different combinations of variations, so greatly increasing the probability of a beneficial combination arising. As explained by the TOE, anything which evolves must convey an advantage otherwise it would not be differentially selected for at each generation.

Again, the abysmal ignorance combined with the argument from ignorance and God of the Gaps fallacies.

Here is the Google search link which would have answered his/her questions, had he/she wanted to find it.

Q9. Why are the (expected) countless millions of transitional fossils missing?

A9. They are neither expected, nor required by the TOE. (Note the quite blatant attempt to mislead to which we’ve become accustomed). But neither are they missing, as a Google search shows.

There is a very good reason why we don’t see many fossils, nor complete series for every generation of every organism. Fossilisation is an extremely unusual and unlikely event.

There is no law of nature and certainly nothing in any TOE which requires every generation of every species to deposit a representative fossil in the geological column where it may be readily discovered by palaeontologists. The laughably infantile implication that there is, or that non-compliance with this ‘law’ is somehow a problem for biologist, simply betrays either the questioner’s ignorance, or the ignorance he’s assuming in his target audience.

And, of course, a moments thought will tell you that EVERY fossil is transitional between its parents and its offspring, just as every living organism is.

Again we have an over-egged pudding, so anxious is the questioner to mislead:

“The evolutionary family trees in textbooks are based on imagination, not fossil evidence."

Evolutionary ‘family trees’ are based on very many factors, of which fossil evidence is often merely support.  The strongest argument for common descent and relationships between species is the genetic and immunological evidence, about which the questioner seems to have managed to be singularly ignorant.

In fact, the existence of the very many good evolutionary series of fossils is an argument against the Creationist notion of spontaneous creation by magic and is a problem for THEM to explain – which is probably why the questioner want his/her targets to believe there aren’t any.

Q10. How do ‘living fossils’ remain unchanged over supposed hundreds of millions of years, if evolution has changed worms into humans in the same time frame?

A10. There is nothing in the TOE which requires anything to evolve in a stable environment, so the question now is why the questioner is either ignorant of this or is trying to mislead his target audience.

The very few examples often quoted by Creationists usually includes the Coelacanth, a lobe-finned fish which is called a ‘living fossil’ because it is a member of an order which was believe to be extinct until a specimen was caught in the Indian Ocean.  In fact, the living members of the order are very different to those from millions of years ago. They have evolved due to environmental pressures, just like any other organism does.

So, is this question just a lie designed to mislead, or does it betray the level of ignorance and the disingenuous desire NOT to discover answers to which we have become accustomed?

Q11. How did blind chemistry create mind/ intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality?

A11. It’s become almost a stock answer to say, “By a process of natural selection acting on population variation”, but that’s the answer again here.

So, if gravity is true, how do you explain stones falling down when you drop them, eh? Take that Mr Scientist!

The disingenuous ignorance here is quite astounding.

Explaining altruism is one of the successes of ‘Selfish gene’ theory of course. Quite simply, if sacrificing an individual is beneficial to the copies of genes in its relatives or descendants, then altruism will evolve.

Morality, of course, is explained by evolution, not of genes, but of memes. Memes are culturally inherited replicators in the form of ideas and cultural norms. Ideas replicate whenever a child learns from its parents, its peers and from authority figures in its culture. We daily interchange memes with one another. A great deal of advertising is based on creating and transmitting memes.

Co-operative, i.e. moral, human societies are more successful than non-cooperative ones, therefore co-operative human cultures succeeded whilst non-co-operative ones failed, so we evolved co-operative cultures and the rules which ensure them.

Q12. Why is evolutionary ‘just-so’ story-telling tolerated?

A12
. How is this a question for evolutionists? Is there something in the TOE which says anything about this? Of course not. It looks like scraping the barrel for questions. Maybe the questioner is trying to outdo Creationist fraudster Kent Hovind who came up with a set of 10 equally fatuous questions which he claims science can’t answer, despite the fact that science can and has answered them where they have any meaningful content.

Evolutionists don’t normally make laws controlling what people say. No doubt Creationists would like to, but science is not about controlling other people.

Q13. Where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution?


A13. Er... the TOE was THE major breakthrough in biological science.  It’s astounding that the questioner seems ignorant of this fact, but maybe it’s just feigned ignorance.  It’s hard to believe anyone with even a basic education in biology would be unaware of this.

“Hey Mr Scientist! Where is that major breakthrough in understanding gravity, eh? Don’t tell me the Theory of Gravity deals with it!”

Of course, the TOE is the grand unifying theory for biology. It underpins much of medical science, of environmental science, of ecology and bioengineering.

Q14. Science involves experimenting to figure out how things work; how they operate. Why is evolution, a theory about history, taught as if it is the same as this operational science?

A14. It’s difficult to know where to begin answering this, exposing as it does, the questioner’s almost complete ignorance of science and scientific methodology. For example, does the questioner imagine cosmologists conduct experiments to work out how galaxy formation occurs or how the fusion reaction in the heart of suns works?

What experiments are conducted to find out how the tectonic plates are moving or how volcanoes work?

A great deal of science is about observation and measurement and conducting further observations to compare reality with hypotheses. One might as well try to dismiss the entire body of geology as a ‘theory about history’. No doubt if geology was as much a threat to religious dogma as biology, there would be Creationist apologists trying to do just that, and aiming their disingenuous questions at an equally credulous and gullible target audience.



Q15. Why is a fundamentally religious idea, a dogmatic belief system that fails to explain the evidence, taught in science classes?

A15.
Er... I’m not aware that Creationism IS taught in science classes. If it IS, it should not be, as it is most definitely NOT a science. I must say I'm a little bemused by this question. I wonder if the writer misunderstood his brief.

To be a science, Creationism would have evidential support – it does not. It would need to be falsifiable – it is not. It would be able to make predictions which can be tested either experimentally or by observation – it cannot.

To be a science, Creationism would be able, like evolution, to produce supporting evidence which explain the observable facts. It can’t. It has no more going for it than any other notion which can be dreamt up with a few moments imaginative thought. Even if the entire body of evolutionary theory were to be overthrown, the notion of creation by a magic man in the sky would be just another competing notion with any number of other equally wacky ideas.

If it wants to be taken seriously Creationism needs to do more than just rely on the fallacy which has been central to this whole list of questions – the False Dichotomy Fallacy, so beloved of Creationists.  This fallacy relies on the parochial ignorance and cultural arrogance of its assumed target audience which, it assumes will take it for granted that, if science can be shown to be false, the ONLY possible alternative explanation is that the locally popular god did it.

So there we have yet another regurgitation of the familiar old disingenuous Creationist questions, posted by someone who is obviously not interested in finding out the answers.  I’ll leave the reader to decide if the questioner has been fooled by Creationist charlatans, like so many others, or is trying to fool people himself.

One thing of which we can be sure though is that we cannot trust Creationists. They have either taken an oath to tell lies or they have been fooled by those who have.

I’ll leave the reader with this illustration of Creationist methodology and a brief article on why Creationism needs to use these tactics as it struggled to come to terms with the fact that science undermines just about everything Creationism stands for.

[Later note: The 'Support this website' button at the foot of the questioner's blog may give a clue]

[Another note: Interestingly, it's impossible to post a reply to 15 Questions for Evolutionists. You can, however, submit a reply for consideration which MAY be selected for publication. Obviously, they can't risk their supporters seeing too many answers. You know the harm education can do.]

[Even later note: Entirely unsurprisingly, 15 Questions for Evolutionists has refused to publish these answers. The excuse was that I hadn't answered the questions. Obviously, they can't have their target marks being alerted to yet another Creationist scam. It might reduce their income stream. Perhaps it never occurred to them that their target marks are normally as eager to be fooled as they are to fool them and are almost guaranteed not to read anything which shakes their 'unshakable' faith.]

Readers might also enjoy the following:
10 Questions for Creationists.
What makes you so special?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Have You Found Jesus?

If you're looking for Jesus you should be able to find him in the Bible... shouldn't you?

Let's go looking there, then:

1. How did Mary and Joseph know Mary was Expecting God’s son?
  • Joseph was told about it in a dream, so he decides not to divorce pregnant Mary. (Matthew 1:18-20)
  • An angel told Mary. (Luke 1:26-31)

2. When was Jesus born?

3. Where was Jesus born?
  • In the house in Bethlehem where Joseph and Mary live (Matt 1:18 – 2:23)
  • In a stable in Bethlehem to where Joseph and Mary have travelled to take part in a census (Luke 1:4 – 2:40)

4. Who came to see Jesus when he was born?
  • Unspecified number of  ‘wise men’ from the East (Matthew 2:1)
  • Unspecified number of shepherds (Luke 2:8)

5. When did Jesus become God’s son?
  • When he was resurrected (Acts 13:32-33)
  • When he was baptised (Luke 3:22)
  • When Mary conceived him (Luke 1:35)

6. When did Jesus cleanse the Temple?
  • The week before he died (Mark 11:15)
  • Right at the beginning of his three-year ministry (John 2:14-16 )

7. How many ‘signs’ did Jesus do in Jerusalem?
  • Water into wine – the ‘first sign’ (John 2:11)
  • Many more signs follow (John 2:23)
  • Then he heals a centurion’s son – the ‘second sign’ (John 4:54)

8. When was Jesus crucified?
  • The day before Passover at about noon (John 19:14)
  • On the day of Passover at 09:00 (Mark 15:25)

9. Who asked Jesus where he was going at the ‘Last Supper’?
  • Peter – “Lord, where are you going?” (John 13:36)
  • Thomas – “Lord, we do not know where you are going.” (John 14:5)
  • Jesus – “... none of you asks me where I am going.” (John 16:5)

10. What were Jesus’ last words on the cross?
  • “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)
  • “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” in Armaic. (My god, my god, why have you forsaken me?) (Mark 15:34)

11. When was the land cast into darkness and the  curtain in the Temple ripped?
  • At the moment of Jesus’ death (Mark 15:38)
  • When Jesus was still alive (Luke 23:45)

So, if those claiming to be eye-witnesses to the events can't agree on anything, no use looking in their records to find Jesus.

Which leaves us with... precisely nowhere.

No wonder Jesus' followers keep asking us if we've found him. (Tweet this)

Further reading: 


Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Curious Case of the Giant Pacific Tube Worms

The giant tubeworm, Riftia pachyptila
Monika Bright, University of Vienna, Austria.
The Giant Pacific Tube Worm (Riftia pachyptila) were discovered in the late 1970s in the eastern Pacific Ocean at depths of around 8000 feet. It is an ‘extremophile’, living as it does around the rim of volcanic hydrothermal vents - so-called ‘black smokers’ because of the colour of the sulphur-rich water welling up from them. The temperatures can reach 360 degrees Celsius and the pressure at that depth is around 150 times that at sea level – enough to crush an ordinary submarine hull.

No sunlight reaches these depths, so, unlike normal ecosystems which depend on sunlight as the source of energy, the entire system depends on bacteria which manufacture nutrients from the chemicals welling up from the vents. The energy source is heat and hydrogen sulphide. Hydrogen sulphide is highly toxic in a normal environment.

Giant tubeworms dominate the landscape around these hydrothermal vents and have a unique symbiotic relationship with bacteria which live within their bodies and provide them with all their nutrients. The adult tube worms have no mouth parts or digestive tract at all as these atrophy once the lava have their population of bacteria in place.

In return for feeding the worms, the bacteria are supplied with a steady stream of nutrients by the tube worms’ feather-like plumes which contain large amounts of haemoglobin to assist with this process. The same organs deal with the waste products.

Now, according to the Bible, God destroyed ‘every living substance’ on earth (Genesis 7:23), save only some chosen specimens of each species which were kept on a boat for some fourteen months complete with all the food they would need. How many of each bacteria and tube worm were on the boat is not clear and depends on whether they were clean (seven) or unclean (two).

Maybe they were both clean or both unclean so the numbers matched. If the tube worms had been clean and the bacteria unclean then the seven worms would have had to make do with two bacteria between them.

Another problem is that they are hermaphrodite, something the author of Genesis doesn't seem to know about, which is a bit strange for an omniscient creator of everything, but I'll let that pass...

Now, the questions are:
  1. How did Noah collect the Giant Pacific Tube Worms and ensure they only had the specified number of bacteria each?
  2. How did he maintain the right temperature, pressure and supply of nutrients whilst bringing then to the boat?
  3. How did he recreate the hydrothermal vent conditions on the boat and maintain the supply of hot, pressurised, highly toxic hydrogen sulphide for over a year?
  4. How did each tube worm manage to live with just one (or maybe 3.5) bacteria to supply all it's metabolic needs when they normally have millions of them?
  5. How did Noah return the tube worms back to the eastern Pacific once they got off the boat?
Strangely, none of this is mentioned in the Bible and the only building material available to Noah would seem to be wood, but I’m sure a Creationist can explain these things to me.


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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Beyond Belief - The Ten Plagues of Egypt.

Why did an omniscient, omnipotent god need ten tries to convince Pharaoh?
  1. All the water turned into blood. The Egyptians never recorded this. Nothing happened.
  2. Frogs. Millions of frogs! The Egyptians didn't notice them either, so nothing happened.
  3. Lice. Nothing.
  4. Flies. Still Nothing.
  5. Pestilence to kill all the livestock. Nothing.
  6. Boils. Even the livestock... er... see 5 above.
  7. Thunder and hail. [Shrug]
  8. Locusts. Now this is just being silly. Still nothing.
  9. Make it dark for 3 days. You've guessed it. Nothing. Not even a marginal note in the official records.
  10. Kill all the ‘first born’, even the ‘maidservant behind the mill’ (what did she do?), and even the livestock, yet again. (And the Hebrews find lambs to sacrifice... even though they all died in the fifth plague).

Phew! After only ten tries!

But even then Pharaoh changed his mind again and sent the army after the Hebrews ... riding on horses ... er... that had all been killed in the fifth plague.

Amazing how inept an omniscient god can be when the story requires one.

Exodus. After Noah’s Ark, probably the second least plausible story in the Bible. (Tweet this)

Historical notes:
  1. The Egyptian word Apiru (foreigner) may be the origin of the word Hebrew.
  2. The Hebrew word Pharaoh (land-owner or owner of an estate) has passed into modern usage as the generic term for the rulers of Ancient Egypt through it's association with Egypt in the Bible. It was never used in that context in Ancient Egypt.
  3. Despite extensive searching by Israeli archaeologists, there is not a single piece of historical or archaeological evidence for any of the events or characters recorded in Exodus and there is no record in Egyptian history of a large foreign slave population, the destruction of the army or any of the plagues.
  4. The archaeological evidence shows that, at the time the events in Exodus purport to take place, the town of Jericho had no city wall. The events 'recorded' in Exodus appear to have occurred only in the minds of its author.
  5. There is tentative evidence to suggest the heretical monotheist Atenists were expelled from Egypt following the death of Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV), their founder and father of Tutankhamen, in c.1335 BCE, and that they subsequently settled in Judea and merged with Judaism to become the Essene sect, so introducing monotheism to a former polytheist religion.





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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Beyond Belief.

How many chances does the Judeo-Christian god need for goodness sake?


First it goes to all the trouble to create a vast universe out of nothing just so it can have a tiny speck of dust on which to create humans, complete with all the plants, animals, air, water, etc, they need.














Undeterred, instead of learning and just starting over with an improved model, it decides its design failure is all the humans' fault so it'll make do with the faulty ones for a while to see how things turn out.












Eventually, in a fit of pique, frustrated that its creation isn’t working properly and still blaming the design, not the designer, it decides to scrap that design, together with all the animals and plants.

But, instead of starting over as any intelligent designer whose prototype doesn’t work would, it just keeps a few of the faulty ones in the hope they’ll improve on their own accord, and drowns the rest.

No! Honestly!

Apparently, making them just disappear was too difficult, only a mass drowning would work. It's master plan now is to keep creating faulty ones and chucking them in a fire until they learn the error of their ways and correct their own design faults. That'll teach them for not being designed properly!




Then it decides this ‘new improved’ design (i.e. the same old design) needs some rules because their faults are showing again, so it writes some on some stones. For some god-knows-what reason, it chooses the top of a mountain to do this and leaves a human to carry the stones down. Classy!

Needless to say, those rules weren’t enough and had to be added to soon afterwards, as its creation needed every aspect of their lives micro-managed in great detail, even to the clothes they wore, the food they ate, when they worked, when they rested, how they reproduced and with whom.

All to no avail, apparently! Things just got worse.




As a last resort, it decides to pretend to be human and come to earth to change all the laws once again, the old ones being no good, apparently.  And, to cap it all, so badly is its ‘new improved’ design doing, it decides, for some bizarre reason, that it has to have itself ‘killed’ for a few days to save it in some curiously superstition belief that a blood sacrifice cures things.

How on earth that was going to work is still a mystery. Even its most fanatical supporters are forever complaining that its creation is STILL not perfect and STILL has the original design fault. Would you buy a car made by this designer?



And there we have it: two failed creations; two tries at producing rules for micro-managing them because the creations weren’t behaving, and a spectacularly useless empty gesture based bizarrely on some primitive tradition of scapegoats and human sacrifice.

And its creation is still faulty, according to its followers. And it's all the design's fault, apparently!

What a Résumé. Would YOU employ it as a designer?

What on earth made the followers of this god think it was perfect and capable of intelligent design? (Tweet this)

You just wouldn’t believe the things some people believe.

Unintelligent design – the reason gods so perfectly fit the gaps in the understanding of their followers.(Tweet this)




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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Science vs Religion

In the search for truth it seems many people believe science and religion are either opposites or at least alternative means to an end.

Let's take a look:

As scientific observation improves and greater understanding is achieved, so interpretation of evidence leads to a closer and closer approximation to the truth. This is a fundamental of science. The 'truth' is assumed to be out there waiting to be discovered.

Science has inbuilt mechanisms for removing bias, including submission to peer-review and, even though some scientists may get away with false results due to bias or dishonesty, other scientists will eventually discover these errors and correct them. There is no surer way to fame and respect in science than in overthrowing an established school of thought. This way leads to Nobel Prizes. There is no surer way to ignominy and disgrace than to be found to have deliberately falsified results or allowed bias due to religious, political or cultural prejudice or for financial gain.

Science is thus self-correcting over time, all the while driven towards discovering objective, culturally neutral truth.

Different researchers working independently can, and often do, come up with the same conclusions. Scientists working in different cultures will still arrive at very similar conclusions and resolution of differences is normally free from cultural bias. Whether working in Japan, Europe or USA scientists will produce results regarded as equally valid by each other. During the Cold War, Western Bloc and Eastern Bloc scientists produced results regarded as no less valid by their opposite numbers in the other bloc on the grounds that they were from the 'wrong' political system.

Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Taoist scientists will all, using the same methodology, produce equally valid results. Science is blind to culture, race, creed or politics. The only test is whether the observations are valid and the conclusions flow logically from them.

Because science is entirely based on observation of evidence and facts are neutral, freed from interference from religion or politics, science tends to converge on the same theories.

For this reason we can be sure that, if in some way we could scrap an entire body of science, say, the Theory of Evolution or the Theory of Gravity, and start again, science would in time come up with identical theories.

Rational theories which flow naturally and inevitably from the neutral facts.

But with religion, things are quite different.

We have many examples of religions being started afresh, just as though the existing 'theory' has been scrapped and started again. They are ALL different.

There are no examples of different religions in different parts of the world converging on a common form or explanation for the universe or life on earth or indeed any of the other answers all religions purport to provide.

Science puts people on the moon.
Religion flies planes into buildings.
In stark contrast to science, religions diverge and fragment and claim all manner of irreconcilable versions of the 'truth'. The 'Christian' religion alone has diverged into some 38,000 different sects and cults, each claiming to be the only true version and to know the truth.

As a means for discovering truth, religions are about as useful as random guesses or examining the entrails of chickens.

This is because there are no neutral facts in religion, no rational interpretation of those facts, no attempts to measure the evidence more and more accurately or to resolve differences between different groups of researchers or between cultures. Indeed, if religions proceeded this way they would be science and no 'faith' would be required.

Religions are about enforcing unquestioned conformity to dogma and often the notional guesses of technologically backward remote ancestors.

In the search for truth, science wins because science can demonstrate the truth of its claims. (Tweet this)



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Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Kalâm Cosmological Fallacy

The Kalâm Cosmological Argument (KCA) has its origins in medieval Islam of the Kalâm tradition but it has been adopted by Christian apologists, notably William Lane Craig, who appear to believe it proves only the Christian god of the New Testament, ignoring the fact that it was originally formulated to ‘prove’ the Islamic god of the Qur’an.
  1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause.
  2. The universe had a beginning.
  3. Therefore the universe had a cause.
  4. That cause must be God.

In essence, the KCA is arguing that:
  1. There can be no natural cause for the universe.
  2. Therefore the cause must be supernatural.
  3. The only possible supernatural cause must be whichever god the argument is being used to promote.

Clearly, we only need to refute 1 for the entire argument to collapse since this is the premise from which the rest is assumed to flow. We only need to show that a natural cause is possible to refute the KCA. The onus of proof lies with those using the KCA to prove their implicit claim that the cause MUST be supernatural, so the onus is upon them to refute our possible natural cause AND show that there are no other possible natural explanations.

Unless they are able to do so, reliance on the KCA is dishonest and disingenuous.

Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause.

This ‘law of causality’ is simply untrue, as quantum mechanics has established. There are two well-known phenomena which illustrate this:
  1. Decay of the energy state an excited electron to its ground state, with the emission of a photon, is known to be random and unpredictable. Based on observations, science can calculate the probability of this event occurring in any given time period, but there is no way the precise moment of decay for any given excited electron can be predicted.
  2. The decay of a radioactive atom by emission of a particle has no cause. There is no detectable difference between a radioactive atom which is about to decay and one which is not. As with the decay of an excited electron to its ground state, science can calculate the probability of radioactive decay in any given period of time but can never predict the moment of decay for any one atom.

The ‘law of causality’ is assumed to apply (note ‘assumed’, as it has not been established for all events) at the level over which Relativity applies, but not at the quantum level, where relativity is known not to apply. The Big Bang was a quantum event so, even if causality is accepted as a law, it demonstrably does not apply at the quantum level.

The universe had a beginning.

This argument assumes that, with space and time being part of the universe (something which has been known since 1905 when Einstein formulated the Theory of Relativity) there can be any meaningful sense in which a ‘beginning’ can be defined in the absence of a time and a place for it to begin.

But why do we need to assume a beginning? Why is it not possible for the universe to have come from something else? In fact, there is no reason to assume it didn’t; that our universe could not have arisen as a quantum fluctuation in a non-zero energy field in some pre-existing universe. The assumption that our universe is all that there is is just that, an assumption, not an established fact. It simply has no validity.

There is nothing in Relativity or Quantum Theory which prevents a universe from originating in some pre-existing universe. Indeed, there is no fundamental law requiring that ‘nothing’ should be the default state of existence rather than something. Apologists who challenge science to explain why there is ‘something rather than nothing’ have the onus of proof that ‘nothing’ should be assumed in the absence of a reason for ‘something’.

It must be said that those who devised the KCA in the middle ages knew nothing of quantum mechanics, nor that the ‘beginning’ of universe was a quantum event, so can be excused for this error. Neither were they aware of Big Bang cosmology or Relativity which show that the Universe as we experience it must have once been very much smaller and could have arisen from an earlier Universe with its own internal space and time.

However, the same cannot be said for modern day apologists either for Christianity or for Islam, for whom ignorance of quantum theory and cosmology, and its basic refutation of the Kalām Cosmological Argument can only be due to choice. These modern-day proponents of the KCA can no longer rely on assumptions which seemed valid and obvious to mediaeval thinkers; they now have to refute the many arguments physicists can put up and show there are no other possible natural explanations. Unless they are able to do so, the KCA is dishonest and disingenuous, based as it is on false premises.

But, let us put that all to one side and assume for the sake of argument, that apologists have established the basic premises of the KCA so there MUST be a supernatural explanation for the universe.

Why does it follow that the only possible supernatural explanation, of all the possible supernatural explanations, is the actions of the god they are promoting? The fact that precisely the same argument is put forward to support the god of the Qur’an, indeed that the KCA used by Lane Craig and other Christian apologists is a straight plagiarisation of an Islamic argument, shows that the final conclusion does not flow from the argument at all. In fact, one could substitute the name of any god, or indeed any other notion and the argument would have the same validity. Using the KCA it is just as easy to make a case for the universe being created by Zeus, a Flying Spaghetti Monster, a committee of Graeco-Roman gods or indeed a peanut-butter sandwich.

And, perhaps more importantly, why do all the assumptions they make regarding the origins of the universe - that it must have had a beginning, therefore it must have had a cause – not apply to their preferred god? Why do they need to abandon the very principles upon which their argument relies in order to make it work for them?

How do they all get away with the same trick? They do it by begging the question. It's a sleight of hand of which any conjurer, card sharp or flimflam man would be proud. The trick is to assume that, in addition to the set of things which begin to exist, there must be a set of things which don't begin to exist from which to select a 'cause'. Apologists like William Lane Craig rely on their audience to unconsciously populate this set with the locally popular god and only the locally popular god. Having set the audience up with this begged question, they then let them draw the 'obvious' but invalid conclusion; invalid because the assumptions of the existence of this set of things which don't begin to exist, and what it contains, is invalid. Even if such a set exists there is no reason we can't put any daft notion we wish in it. More importantly, there is never an explanation of why it could not contain something perfectly natural, requiring no supernatural involvement at all.

Clearly, given the state of our knowledge of cosmology and quantum mechanics, we can now confidently state that the basic premises of the KCA are not valid. Given the modern availability of information on these subjects we can, with equal confidence, state that those who use it are being dishonest and disingenuous, and very clearly pursuing some other agenda than truth.

A moment’s thought will show that the KCA is merely the God of the Gaps, the Argument from Personal Incredulity and the Argument From Ignorance fallacies dressed up to look respectable. It is no less dishonest for all that. In essence, the argument is nothing more than "I don't know how it happened, therefore no one knows how it happened, therefore it is unknowable, therefore it must have been supernatural, therefore it must have been [insert required answer]".

What is plainly going on here is that apologists are aiming their arguments not at non-believers and scientists who can see through their fallacies but at those who are ignorant of science and/or those who merely want their pre-existing superstitions ‘confirmed’ by scientific-sounding or seemingly logical arguments without being too concerned about their validity. The argument is aimed at those who, through parochial ignorance, are culturally pre-disposed to assume that, if one can make the case for a supernatural explanation for something, it stands to reason that it must be the locally popular god - the one assumed to be the only god on offer - and that this then proves the locally popular god is real. It does nothing of the sort of course. All it demonstrates is the ability to ascribe something not understood to whatever cause one wishes it to be.

There is no truth-seeking agenda at work, merely a desire to exploit a credulous and gullible market and milk it for all it’s worth. (Tweet this)

Further reading:
  1. God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Victor J. Stenger, Jan 2007. Prometheus Books. IBSN 1591026520.
  2. A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. Stephen W. Hawking, 1988. Bantam. IBSN 9780553109535.
  3. The Kalâm Cosmological Argument. William Lane Craig. August 2000. Wipf and Stock Publishers ISBN 9781579104382


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