F Rosa Rubicondior: January 2013

Thursday 31 January 2013

Jesus Said He Wasn't Good or God!

I wonder how devout Christians come to terms with the Bible saying that Jesus said he wan't good because he wasn't God. No doubt those who've come across it and haven't moved swiftly on, have a good apologetic ready...

For those who haven't yet read the Bible - and I expect that to be most of them - here he is saying it. Stop now if you find it distressing or annoying to read the parts of the Bible that don't agree with you.
And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
Viewed in the light of the finalized version of the Jesus myth, where Jesus has become the earthly manifestation of the Old Testament god, this makes no sense at all. Why would Jesus be deliberately drawing this distinction between himself and God, and why would he be implicitly admitting to not being good, in other words, to being a sinner, just like other people?

Clearly, this is from an earlier time in the development of this myth when Jesus was being portrayed as the Jewish Messiah in the context of the Jewish Messiah narrative, not in the narrative Paul later invented. In the Jewish version, the Messiah was only ever going to be a human, chosen by God to lead the restored Jewish nation and Jesus was probably at best no more than a claimant amongst many to that title. In fact, it seems that, because the title was commonly claimed by cheats, charlatans, conjurers and pretenders it had by then become a vernacular pejorative term to indicate a fraud and tended to be applied mockingly to people suspected of making false claims.

Stories purporting to be about the real Jewish Messiah, especially when others were claiming he was God or the son of God, would quite naturally have the hero emphatically denying he was God and at pains to point out that he was merely a man. It is entirely consistent with the view that the Jesus myth was originally based partly on an apocalyptic 'prophet of doom' who was telling people the end was nigh and that the only way to be saved was to obey all the Mosaic Laws, hence the reference to the 'commandments' in the same passages.
Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
It's a shame that the author of Mark didn't appear to know the Ten Commandments and added an extra one, so implying that Jesus didn't know the commandments he was lecturing others about, but be that as it may.

What we have here then is clear evidence that the Jesus myth developed and grew over time out of a local Jewish Messianic myth, until we have Paul telling people that Jesus was God and that it wasn't necessary to be a circumcised Jew and to obey all the Jewish laws and rituals to be saved - which just happened to broaden the appeal of the cult he was pushing and laying claim to be leader of.

If only the post-Constantine Roman era hadn't been one where state-sponsored Christians of the triumphant Pauline sect, in a stunning display of non-confidence in the truth of their new 'faith' and the power of their new god to defend it, went on a book-burning orgy of censorship, destroying almost all the earlier versions of this and related myths and killing the 'heretics' who could have re-written them (and so incidentally encouraging all the forgeries claiming to be by Paul which clearly aren't his work which subsequently got incorporated into the Bible), we might now have a much better record of how Christianity was invented.

All we have left is a few scraps of parchment which have survived because they were well hidden from the censoring zealots and so almost invariably tend to be of non-biblical 'heracies'. Some, such as the Gospel of Judas, pre-date any known versions of anything in the New Testament, and hints of earlier sects like the the Ebionites and Nazarenes, of which Jesus' brother James may have been a member, who saw Jesus as just a man and Mary and Joseph as his natural parents, and the hysterically genocidal persecution of the Cathars, indicating that they held beliefs which the Vatican found seriously threatening, would very probably give a fascinating account of how myths evolve to become adapted to the needs of the priesthood and the rulers they serve - which of course is one reason rivals were so assiduously sought out and destroyed.

As it is, we have to rely on an intelligent reading of the often copied, amended and edited versions of the few surviving manuscripts which were selected for inclusion in the Bible to reassemble the story from the transitional fossil remnants to be found in them, such as the above little snippets that escaped the censor's pen, possibly because it is tightly bound up with tales about suffering little children and rich people giving up their wealth that it suited the church of the time to keep.

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Wednesday 30 January 2013

In God's Name

Here is a fascinating piece of information I've just gleaned from D. M. Murdock's very readable book, The Origins of Christianity And The Quest For The Historical Jesus

It seems the name which the people who created and wrote about the myth of Jesus used for the hero of their tale was a very old one, owing it's origins to an earlier event in human history - the Alexandrian conquest of Northern India.

You may recall from history lessons how Alexander III of Macedon, generally known as Alexander the Great, the son of a minor Macedonian king, Philip II, who conquered Ancient Greece, built the largest empire the world had then known, an empire which was to have a huge and long-lasting influence on the course of history.

Alexander the Great's Empire
Alexander inherited a strong and disciplined army from his father when he succeeded him in 336 BCE. Two years after becoming King of Greece he invaded Asia Minor (modern Turkey) which was then a Persian possession. After a ten-year campaign he overthrew King Darius II of Persia and incorporated Persia into his empire. His empire then extended from the Adriatic to the Indus River and the Himalayan Mountains in Northern India. In a series of campaigns he had annexed the entire Eastern Mediterranean and Ancient Egypt and his armies pushed even further into central Asia as far as Bactria, now Afghanistan. He was prevented from moving further south into the rest of India when his troops demanded he turn back. Instead, he planned to annex the Arabian Peninsula but he died, supposedly of malaria, in Babylon in 323 BCE, aged 26. In just 13 years he had transformed the Eastern Mediterranean area and exported Greek culture to Mesopotamia, India and Western Central Asia.

On his death, a brief civil war resulted in his empire being divided amongst a number of his generals who set themselves up as kings, including Ptolemy, who grabbed Egypt. One of Ptolemy's descendants was Queen Cleopatra, the last Egyptian Pharaoh.

From then on the Eastern Mediterranean area was culturally Greek and Greek became the lingua franca of the Eastern Mediterranean world used for trade, government and increasingly the language scholars and scribes used. Even when Rome succeeded in incorporating much of the Hellenized part of the the world into its expanding empire the language, culture and many of the customs of the eastern half remained Greek, as was that of it's eventual successor in the east, centred on Constantinople (renamed Byzantium, now Istanbul) and calling itself "The Roman Empire" but known to historians as the Byzantine Empire to distinguish the two, until it's demise in 1453.

What has this got to do with the myth of Jesus?

Well, according to D. M. Murdock, the Greeks acquired the name of one of their gods, Zeus, from India in the name 'Dyaus' to which had been appended the Greek for 'the father', 'patêr' to give 'Dyaus Pitar' which became 'Zeus Patêr', from which we get 'Deos', 'Dios', 'Deus', 'Dieu', 'Dei' and 'Theos'. The Romans contracted 'Dyaus Piter' to 'Jupiter', so both Zeus and Jupiter are 'God the Father'

In Egypt, 'Pitar' became 'Ptah' the 'father of the gods', one manifestation of whom is the sun, or Horus. One of Horus' names was Iusa. Egyptian tradition had long regarded the Pharaoh as the earthly form of Horus while alive who became Osiris in death, hence Horus and Osiris were aspects of one another. Another name for Osiris was 'Krst', hence we have Iusa Krst, son of God the Father (Ptah or Dyaus Piter).

One of Horus' main rivals was Set or Seta, originally another, dark, aspect of Horus with whom Horus once battled for 40 days in the wilderness.

And of course, the Bible's authors wrote their tales about Iesu Christos (Iusa Krst, Jesus Christ), Son of God, who does battle with Seta or Satan, and whose close friend was Peter, names which come to us straight from Alexander's India via Egypt. The fact that Palestine was part of the Hellenized world facilitated the transmission of the stories they wrote in Greek throughout the Eastern Roman Empire, including the major towns of Damascus, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople, and to Rome itself, so founding the major branches of early Christianity based on these cities, each with it's own Pope or bishop and each with it's own versions of the tales of this ancient mythical Indian god, set and retold in a Hellenized Palestine and incorporating elements of Ancient Egyptian mythology for added authenticity.

As an interesting aside, again according to D. M. Murdoch, the Hebraic term 'Masiah' (anointed one) was used for any king but it was a title "commonly assumed by imposters, conjurers and pretenders to supernatural communications", so much so that it became a pejorative term to indicate a fraud or imposter, hence its use as a title for Jesus could well have been intended originally to mock an imposter or fraud.

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Monday 28 January 2013

It's Not Just The Monotheists...

The serial virgin Devaki with her eighth child, Krishna
It's not just the monotheists like Christians, Jews and Muslims who have to believe the nonsensical and the plainly absurd to be 'faithful'.

They might think they have a difficult time having to believe in talking snakes, flying horses, virgin births, men living inside fish and the mountains being pegs to hold the ground down, to name just a few, but just imagine how difficult it must be to be a faithful Hindu.

Apparently, according to one of the Hindu myths, the God Krishna was also born of a virgin, but his mother, Devaki, was no ordinary virgin. She had made something of a habit of it, having given birth to seven children prior to Krishna. A veritable serial virgin.

Her first pregnancy was also special in another way. It was caused by her eating half a mango.

In one of Devaki's other 'manifestations' as Aditi, the goddess of dawn, she is also the 'eternal' or 'celestial virgin', something which didn't stop her also bearing eight children.

Apparently, this is all perfectly simple and easy to understand: she used to be a virgin. Parthenogenetic births or doing unusual things with mangoes don't have any bearing on the matter.

No wonder so many Hindus say they are Atheist.

Slice of mango, anyone?

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A Golden Case Of Rapid Evolution

If you want a beautiful example of very rapid recent evolution there are few better than the beautiful golden jellyfish, Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni which inhabits Jellyfish Lake (Ongeim'l Tketau) on Eil Malk island in the tiny Micronesian state of Palau in the Pacific.

Eil Malk island is one of a group of islands known as the Rocky Islands in Palau's Southern Lagoon, the remnants of a Miocene coral reef. Jellyfish lake, like several other similar lakes, is connected to the surrounding lagoon only through the porous rock of the island. This means that, so far as the marine environment is concerned, Ongeim'l Tketau is an isolated micro-environment.

It has been so since 12,000 years ago when geological evidence shows was the last time the ocean level was high enough for the lake to be directly connected to the surrounding ocean. The effect of this was to reset the clock so to speak, so far as biodiversity is concerned. At that point, every species then present in the lake became effectively isolated from it's parent population and a population of (probably) the spotted jellyfish Mastegias papua became isolated from those in the surrounding lagoon. It mimics the sort of experiment biologists would love to do on this scale and over this time-span.

The lake is one of about 200 known world-wide in which the water is stratified into distinct layers which do not mix. In Jellyfish lake, there is a top layer which is oxygenated and which receives sunlight, and an anoxic dark layer which is rich in hydrogen sulphide from the decaying remains on the lake bed. At the interface between these layers (known as a chemocline) there lives a group of photosynthesising purple sulphur bacteria.

Like the spotted and several other related jellyfish, golden jellyfish rely on single-celled, photosynthesising algae, which live symbiotically in cells in their 'clubs', for most of their food. The algae receive protection and are taken to the sunlight and supplied with all their nutrients by the jellyfish and supply the jellyfish with sugar in return. Juvenile jellyfish quickly build up their population of algae from the micro-organisms they take in whilst feeding in the normal jellyfish way.

Left image: golden jellyfish (Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni) in Jellyfish Lake, Palau.

Right image: spotted jellyfish (Mastigias papua) at the New England Aquarium.

The red bars indicate the extent of the clubs. The clubs are almost completely absent in the golden jellyfish that inhabits the jellyfish lake.
What may have started off as a predator-prey relationship with the jellyfish eating the algae, or a parasite-host relationship with the algae being parasites on the jellyfish has, through the selfish interests of both genomes become a mutually cooperative and highly beneficial relationship to both, but that's not the evolution we are talking about here, though it may have progressed even further in the golden jellyfish and its algae in Jellyfish Lake. We are talking about the degree of divergence from the founder species in just 12,000 years.

In just that short time, Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni has undergone considerable evolution. Incidentally, the 'cf.' in the scientific name of the golden jellyfish is because it's not certain that it is a subspecies of M. papua and not of one of several such closely related species. M. papua seems the most likely candidate because it is common locally.

And this problem serves to highlight the degree of separation that a mere 12,000 years of isolation in a unique environment has produced. The changes are not just morphological either.

Golden jellyfish have unique daily pattern of migration within Jellyfish lake.
  • Night - For about 14 hours a day the jellyfish make repeated vertical excursions between the surface and the chemocline in the western basin possibly to acquire nitrogen and other nutrients from near the chemocline for their symbiotic algae.
  • From early morning to about 0930 - The jellyfish move from center of western basin to the eastern basin
  • From early afternoon to about 1530 - The jellyfish move from eastern basin to near western end of lake
  • As the sun sets - The jellyfish move briefly eastward from western end to western basin where they remain through the night

Spotted jellyfish also exhibit migratory behaviour in the lagoon moving with the sun as it moved across the lagoon, but it is nothing as complex as that of the golden jellyfish.

It is thought that the difference is caused by evolutionary change driven by the jellyfish-eating anemones Entacmaea medusivora that inhabit the eastern regions of Jellyfish Lake. The jellyfish avoid shadows and in the morning with the shadows on the eastern end the jellyfish also avoid the anemones. By moving east to west in the early afternoon the jellyfish avoid the time of day when the setting sun would eliminate shadows on the lake in the eastern end and thereby avoid the anemones in the afternoon.

So we see not only a striking morphological change but also a change in life-style in as little as 12,000 years, all driven by an environmental change which first isolated a founder population and then moulded it to suit the particular micro-environment which ensued.

For me, understanding how evolution produces this with a few easy to understand 'rules' makes these little snippets of information about life on earth one of the great joys of living. Who could not want to understand what has created this amazingly beautiful and complex planet?

What a waste of a life to spend it finding ways to deny all that wonder and enjoyment because of the mind-numbing theophobia of religious superstition. What disgusting specimens of human life are those parasites who promulgate this superstitious phobia and encourage the scientific ignorance that facilitates it, simply to create and maintain a credulous market to feed off and something behind which to hide their politics of racism, hate, greed and selfishness.

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Friday 25 January 2013

Understanding Papal Infallibility

Some people seem to be having a problem understanding the idea of papal infallibility so this blog explains it in easy to understand terms, complete with a few examples of how the Pope uses it.

The important thing to understand is that it gives the Pope fantastic magical powers. Because he is infallible whatever he says becomes fact, automatically. Because he is the only person to have these powers, obviously he is the ultimate source of all truth because he literally creates it at will.

That's if you believe the official dogma.
Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church which states that, in virtue of the promise of Jesus to Peter, the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error "when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church"

Infallibility - In general, exemption or immunity from liability to error or failure; in particular in theological usage, the supernatural prerogative by which the Church of Christ is, by a special Divine assistance, preserved from liability to error in her definitive dogmatic teaching regarding matters of faith and morals.

The teaching of the Vatican Council is to be found in Session III, cap. 4, where it is declared that "the doctrine of faith, which God has revealed, has not been proposed as a philosophical discovery to be improved upon by human talent, but has been committed as a Divine deposit to the spouse of Christ, to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted by her"; and in Session IV, cap. 4, where it is defined that the Roman pontiff when he teaches ex cathedra "enjoys, by reason of the Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith and morals".
So there we are. The Catholic Church has 'proved', within the Catholic Church's definition of proof, that the Pope is infallible, merely by defining the Pope as infallible, therefore the Pope is infallible. QED.

Let there be facts!

So what has this meant for the world?

Earth as it used to be
Well, the most famous example was when the Pope declared that earth was no longer flat but was now a globe. At that instant earth must have changed from being flat to being a globe. Obviously this couldn't have happened before the Pope's announcement because, no matter how short, there would have been a period during which the Pope was wrong - which is obviously impossible, being infallible. Similarly, it couldn't have happened after the Pope's announcement for the same reason, therefore it must have happened exactly simultaneously with the Pope's announcement. It also follows naturally from the Catholic Church's 'logic' that there must have been such an announcement because the Catholic Church's official position changed and that can only happen when the Pope infallibly announces, as the spokesperson for God, that there has been a change in the 'truth'.

Curiously though, there doesn't seem to be a record of this momentous occasion. We just know that in the early Middle ages leading theologians like Diodorus of Tarsus, Severian, Bishop of Gabala and Cosmas Indicopleustes were proclaiming that earth was flat but by the late Middle Ages those such as Thomas Aquinas were proclaiming it to be spherical and none of them were declared heretical, so we are safe to assume that the infallible Pope changed his mind. Maybe he just announced the change in earth's fundamental shape to a few friends.

The Universe before 1820
The second major change was when earth stopped being the centre of the universe, with the sun and moon going round it and the stars being stuck on the dome over it, to being merely a small planet orbiting one of half a billion suns in one of half a billion galaxies in a vast expanding universe and the stars being transformed into remote astronomical bodies like suns, super novae and galaxies. (I wonder what happened to the dome over earth and all that water it was holding up.)

We can date this event a little better than earth's change from flat to spherical. It happened in 1820 when "...the Congregation of the Holy Office, with the pope's approval, decreed that Catholic astronomer, Joseph Settele was allowed to treat the earth's motion as an established fact." (Wikipedia - Geocentric model) and so repudiated the infallible papal decrees listed in The Pontifical Decrees Against the Doctrine of The Earth’s Movement and the Ultramontane Defence of Them. It's a shame the actual time and date in 1820 that the Pope gave his infallible approval for this decree isn't recorded, because that would have been the time it all changed. We could have a special 'Galileo Day' to celebrate it.

Barnacle Goose, Branta leucopsis
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. It's a fish... er... duck (official!)
One example of a Pope changing the natural world by infallible decree is the case of the Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis). In the Middle ages Catholic bishops in Ireland had declared that Barnacle Geese were fish and thus could be eaten on Friday and during Lent, when consumption of flesh by Catholics was a sin. This was because, so they wrongly believed, Barnacle Geese don't reproduce by laying eggs like other birds; instead they emerge fully formed from barnacles - which are 'fish', obviously (actually barnacles are arthropods, related to crabs but let's not get pedantic, we are dealing with Catholic Church 'facts' here after all).

This all changed when Pope Innocent III declared at the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 that Catholics were explicitly prohibited from eating Barnacle Geese during Lent because, despite their unusual reproduction (sic), they lived and fed like ducks and so were of the same nature as other birds.

So, at that point Barnacle Geese ceased being fish and became er... ducks. However, they continued to reproduce by growing in barnacles and not by laying eggs like other birds. This of course is still the case, because the infallible papal declaration of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 is still in force. People who believe that Barnacle Geese reproduce by flying to breeding grounds of which Medieval Catholic bishops were unaware and where they mate and lay eggs like other geese, should cease in that erroneous belief forthwith. It will remain an error until the Pope announces otherwise and has been an error since well before 1215.

Pope Pius XII, Euphoria
Elderly Catholics might still remember the day in 1951 when Pope Pius XII, in a moment of euphoria over Georges Lemaïtre proof of the Big Bang, threw caution to the wind and declared this to be the moment when God said 'Let there be light!' and so the biblical God was now proven by science (was there some doubt?) and so accepted that the universe began several billion years ago and took a long time to develop.
It would seem that present-day science, with one sweep back across the centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to the august instant of the primordial Fiat Lux [Let there be Light], when along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, and the elements split and churned and formed into millions of galaxies. Thus, with that concreteness which is characteristic of physical proofs, [science] has confirmed the contingency of the universe and also the well-founded deduction as to the epoch when the world came forth from the hands of the Creator. Hence Creation took place. We say: "Therefore, there is a Creator. Therefore God exists!"
Pope Pius XII, 1951
Following some discrete advice from Lemaïtre that tying the proof of God to a falsifiable scientific theory might not be the wisest piece of divine guidance he had received, in fact it was more a Papal Blunder than Papal Bull, Pope Pius XII decided to say no more on the matter, but the damage was done.

At that very moment of course, according to the dogma of papal infallibility, the universe had ceased being a few thousand years old and the product of a six-day special creation and had instantly become several billion years old and the product of a slow, scientifically rational process - and the whole of Genesis had been rendered false, probably mythical or at best merely allegorical. And with that, of course, Pius XII inadvertently abolished original sin, the need for God's forgiveness, and any meaning to Jesus' supposed sacrifice or indeed any purpose to his alleged existence. Oops!

Such is the danger of having the power to create reality by fiat but lacking the wisdom or understanding to apply it judiciously.

The same Pope Pius XII had earlier announced in 1950 that the way life on earth had been created was now, in all important respects, the way Darwin and Wallace had described it in 1859. Previously it had been created the way the Bible described it with all species being created exactly as they are to day by God.

Prior to that announcement, all the evidence supporting Darwin and Wallace, like geology, fossils, anatomy, physiology, etc., had either been put there by Satan to mislead and confuse mankind, or by God to test our faith. Immediately the Pope made his announcement however it all became proof of God's wondrous powers and wisdom in thinking up the process of evolution, setting it in motion and guiding it to produce mankind.

Curiously though, with the age of the universe not being changed from a few thousand years to many billions until 1951, for about a year we had a situation whereby the earth was not old enough for the slow evolutionary process, which was now a fact, to have taken place.

Luckily, another useful Catholic doctrine - that anything God has done which seems illogical, ridiculous, contradictory, or the act of a deranged madman or incompetent fool, is merely a mystery beyond our comprehension and thus proof of God's infinite wisdom - came into play to save the day. Phew!

One change which happened very recently seems to be important for Catholics but appears to have made no difference at all to the rest of the world. This was the abolition of 'limbo' by the Pope on April 7, 2007.

Until that date, because God couldn't stand the sight of the 'souls' of the disgusting little sinners, babies who died before they could be baptised went to a place called 'limbo' rather than Hell, because, although God was repulsed by them, they hadn't done anything wrong other than being born before they could 'accept Jesus as their saviour', so eternal pain and suffering seemed a bit harsh even for the god who had thought up the idea of sin, Hell and eternal pain and suffering in the first place.

So Pope Benedict exercised his infallible powers to change reality and henceforth God will tolerate them, despite their repulsive sinfulness, and 'limbo' has been abolished. It is not clear whether all the babies who were in limbo at the time simply ceased to exist as well or whether Heaven was swamped by a sudden deluge of the many centuries worth of accumulated baby 'souls' arriving instantaneously.

Pope Benedict was quick to point out that babies should still be baptised as quickly as possible though. This obviously had nothing to do with the need to pin a label on them so they could be counted as Catholics and so keep the membership numbers artificially inflated. It was clearly an ecumenical matter based on sound theology and a personal communication from God to Pope Benedict.

Another recent change in reality announced by Pope Benedict on 17 March 2009 was the change in the cause of AIDS. This used to be caused only by the Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which can be transmitted during sexual intercourse, the risk of which could be reduced to a very low level by use of condoms. Now however, following a change introduced by the Pope, AIDS is also caused by using a condom.

This again is based on sound theology and a personal communication from God to Pope Benedict and has nothing to do with concern that using condoms routinely as a contraceptive might reduce the number of babies Catholics are producing to be counted in the world-wide Catholic numbers, and would also reduce abject poverty, suffering and hopelessness, the escape from which is sold as a reason to allow the Catholic Church control of your day-to-day lives and so keep the money coming in.

I hope this article has been some help in explaining the idea of papal infallibility and how the Pope can use it to change reality to suit the needs of the Catholic Church and its clergy people as and when required. What a good thing it was for humanity that the Pope had the infallible idea of infallibly defined his own infallibility and so granted himself these wonderful, magical powers so we don't need to concern ourselves with things like what's real and what isn't.

So there we are. Papal infallibility is not at all hard to understand. We just need to suspend disbelief, abandon rational thinking and believe what we are told to believe. Then we just need to obey all the rules and not ask so many silly questions.


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Thursday 24 January 2013

Even Sillier Bible Stories

How's this for a story from the Bible, also known as 'The Word Of God'? Apparently, it never used to be necessary to be born first before you could father children. You could start way before you were even a twinkle in your own father's eye!

No, really!

Thirty and two years old was he [Jehoram, son of Jehosephat] when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired. Howbeit they buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchres of the kings.

2 Chronicles 21:20

So that means Jehoram died when he was forty. He was succeeded by his youngest son:

And the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah his youngest son king in his stead: for the band of men that came with the Arabians to the camp had slain all the eldest. So Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah reigned. Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Athaliah the daughter of Omri.

2 Chronicles 22:1-2

So, Jehoram was forty when he died, leaving his forty-two year-old youngest son to succeed him.

A son two years older than his father! The miracle of prenatal conception!

One wonders how many years prior to his birth Jehoram fathered his older sons! But the matter can be cleared up by reading 2 Kings:

Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel.

2 Kings 8:26

Phew! So Ahaziah was both twenty-two years old and forty-two years old at the same time. There had to be a simple explanation.

Unless the 'Word of God' made a mistake somewhere.

Incidentally, don't be confused by the NIV version of the Bible. For that version, the translators 'corrected' God's inerrant word for him and wrongly translated 2 Chronicles 22:2 to read twenty-two, so you wouldn't notice God's silly mistake. Wasn't that kind of them?

I'll leave you to decide whether this story is more absurd that the next one, in which King Saul dies four different ways, apparently. Maybe the first recorded instance of triple resurrection?

Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him. So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together.

1 Samuel 31:4-6

And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite. He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me. So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord.

2 Samuel 1:8-10

And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead, which had stolen them from the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa:

2 Samuel 21:12

So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; And enquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.

1 Chronicles 10:13-14

First suicide, then an Amalekite, than a Philistine and finally God. Did Saul keep coming back to life, like one of those trick birthday cake candles that you can't blow out, until God finally got tired of it and did the job himself?

Incidentally, did you notice in the first account, how everyone died and yet someone was able to report the conversation? Strange how often that sort of thing seems to happen in the Bible, like with Jesus and the adulteress where only he and she remained after the crowd had wandered off, and yet someone recorded exactly what Jesus said to her.

Many more of these biblical absurdities are listed in Long, Jason. Biblical Nonsense: A Review Of The Bible For Doubting Christians.

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Wednesday 23 January 2013

Rice, Alcohol And Rapid Human Evolution

The distribution of the ADH1B*47His allele and the sites of early rice relics. The contour map of
the ADH1B*47His frequency in East Asian populations and the ancient sites of rice domestication
in China. The allele frequency data includes the 38 populations in the present study and those
published before. The geographic locations of the rice sites are from the published data.
Environments drive evolution by providing the natural selection of those best able to reproduce from among the different varieties. In terms of genes, variation means different alleles of the same gene. So, when the environment changes we should see evolution to 'fit in' with that changed environment. The organism adjust and this adjustment we call evolution.

An example of that from fairly recent human history is to be seen in Asia, and China in particular.

It is very common amongst Asian peoples that shortly after drinking even a small quantity of alcohol, they display an 'alcohol flush', rather like a facial blush. People who do this appear to be able to tolerate alcohol better than others.

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have discovered that this is caused by a variant allele called ADH1B*47His. Molecular dating techniques have shown that this arose in China around 7-10,000 years ago, exactly when Chinese culture underwent a major (possible the most significant) change when rice was domesticated.

We studied a total of 38 populations (2,275 individuals) including Han Chinese, Tibetan and other ethnic populations across China. The geographic distribution of the ADH1B*47His allele in these populations indicates a clear east-to-west cline, and it is dominant in south-eastern populations but rare in Tibetan populations. The molecular dating suggests that the emergence of the ADH1B*47His allele occurred about 10,000~7,000 years ago.

This crop quickly became the staple source of carbohydrate and a good deal of the protein in the Chinese diet and enabled settled agriculture and the growth of cities in and around the Hwang Ho (Yellow River) valley.

Rice can also be fermented to give alcohol which has several uses: It can be used recreationally but ultimately destructively when used in excess; it can also be used to preserve food and enhance it's nutrient qualities, as a disinfectant and medicinally as an analgesic. It is believed that drunkenness may have quickly become a major problem giving both increased food but also increased problems with drunkenness and alcohol-related illness.

So, people carrying ADH1B*47His would have been able to tolerate alcohol and would have suffered less damage from recreational alcohol, whilst benefiting from the positive benefits, giving them a very real advantage.

The correlation test for ADH1B*47His allele frequencies with the ages of rice domestication.
The correlation of the ADH1B*47His allele frequencies with the ages of rice domestication in
14 regions of China. The data of rice domestication was collected from the published study.
The correlation analysis was conducted with the use of SPSS13.0, and the statistical
significance was accessed by t test.
As the distribution map and chart shows, the occurrence of this allele corresponds closely with the distribution of rice growing, and the incidence is correlated with the length of time rice has been in cultivation in the area.

So here again we see an illustration of the way the environment drives evolution by translating the information in the genome and giving it meaning. Before there was rice being cultivated and the alcohol that was able to be produced by it and with it, the ADH1B*47His allele had no meaning whatsoever. In the presence of rice and alcohol it meant survive and prosper when others are suffering and failing. And so ADH1B*47His increased in the local human gene pool

The presence of rice change the environment of the human population of China and evolution ensured the human population promptly adjusted to fit into this new environment.

When will creationists ever get that simple piece of information into their heads and allow themselves to appreciate the wonder of nature and the awe-inspiring power of evolution by natural selection to fine tune living organisms to harmonize with their environments.

More information: The ADH1B Arg47His polymorphism in East Asian populations and expansion of rice domestication in history, Yi Peng, Hong Shi, Xue-bin Qi, Chun-jie Xiao, Hua Zhong, Run-lin Z Ma and Bing Su, BMC Evolutionary Biology (in press), www.biomedcentral.com/bmcevolbiol/

Read more at: http://phys.org/news183153307.html#jCp


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Monday 21 January 2013

Stories From The Bible

You really should read the Bible. You'll never believe what's in it.

To cover Mt Everest in 40 days, rainfall would have been 6 inches per minute worldwide. (Genesis 7:12-20)

To cover Mt Everest in 40 days, the rainfall would have made breathing impossible. (Genesis 7:12-20)

God creates men and women together (Genesis 1:25-27) then creates Eve out of Adam's rib. (Genesis 2:18-25)

God creates animals before Adam & Eve (Gen 1:25-27) then creates them all again later (Gen 2:18-19)

God, who knows all, created all the plants for man to eat (Genesis 1:27-29) not realising some are poisonous.

God, who created everything and knows all, thinks all animals are either male or female. (Genesis 6:19)

Moses parted the Red Sea and led the Israelites out of Egypt into Sinai which was in er... Egypt. (Exodus 14)

Isaiah warns us that God will turn earth upside down so everyone will fall off. (Isaiah 24:1)

God created wicked people so he would have someone to torture for eternity. (Proverbs 16:4)

You can tell righteous people because they have plenty to eat. Only wicked people go hungry. (Proverbs 13:25)

God puts a price on human life. Boys are worth 5 shekels; a girl only 3. (Leviticus 27:1-7)

James declares every creature in the world is now tame - but forgets to tell the creatures. (James 3:7)

Jesus declares mustard seeds to be the world's smallest - and gets another fact wrong. (Mark 4:31)

After many days at sea Noah sent out a raven to fly round the world and find land. He didn't think to use a seabird. The world was small in those days. (Genesis 8:7)

A few years after the Ark there were enough people to build a tower all the way to Heaven. (Genesis 11:4)

God, who knows all things, had to come down to earth to find out what was going on. (Genesis 11:5)

God, who created the universe, gave Noah 7 days to round up 2 (or 7) of each species. Maybe earth was smaller then. (Genesis 7:1-4)

The Israelites, despite seeing all the miracles, worship a golden calf when Moses goes up a mountain for a few days. (Exodus 32:1-6)

The Israelite slaves built the city of Raamses - which wasn't built until 127 years after the traditional date of Exodus. (Exodus 1:11)

2-3 million Israelites lived in Sinai for 40 years - and left no trace, not even a worn out shoe. (Exodus 16:35)

Saul saw the light on road to Damascus and so made the first written account of temporal lobe epilepsy. (Acts 9:3)

Moses boasts that he is the most meek person on earth. (Numbers 12:3)

God is all powerful but can't beat people who have iron chariots. (Judges 1:19)

God tempteth no man (James 1:13) so Jesus tells us to ask him not to lead us into temptation. (Matthew 6:13)

The only witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus don't see a reason to become Christians. (Matthew 28:12-15)

A talking vine tells the trees that wine makes God happy. Apparently, God needs alcohol. (Judges 9:13)

God, to whom all things are possible, left Moses to carry two heavy stones down the mountain all by himself. (Exodus 34:29)

Joseph was a 'just man' so didn't tell on pregnant Mary - and showed us he thought God's Law was unjust! (Matthew 1:19)

To be continued....

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Sunday 20 January 2013

The Dark Matter Of Gods

This piece of good advice for theists from @Rickygervais, currently being passed around the Twitterverse, puts me in mind of something theists often mock science for - the subject of Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

Like theists' various gods, Dark Matter can't be seen (which is why it's dark), can't be detected directly, which means it doesn't appear to do anything, and can't be heard, not even in the broader sense of giving off any radiant energy (which again is why it's dark).

So, with typical hypocrisy and doublethink, theists often accuse science of using faith when it comes to Dark Matter, as though for others, faith fatally undermines an idea, but not for them, obviously. For them, faith saves their idea from dismissal through lack of evidence.

But of course, the reason for Dark Matter being suspected is because we can see the effects something is exerting on the surrounding matter in that something is providing the gravity which prevents rotating galaxies from flying apart under their own inertia.

In other words, Dark Matter is a scientific hypothesis to explain a natural phenomenon. Nothing more and nothing less. If and when a better hypothesis is produced, the idea of Dark Matter will be abandoned. If, on the other hand, evidence is found to confirm it, Dark Matter will be incorporated into the scientific theory of matter. Either way the sum total of human knowledge will increase and science will move a little closer to the truth.

Strangely, theists can never point to any unexplained real phenomenon which needs a god to explain it. Unlike Dark Matter, no scientific explanation for any phenomenon has ever been shown to require a god in it. In fact, the desperate attempts by theists to insert their god in any scientific explanation has always proved to be unfounded and so should have been pared away with Ockham's Razor as an unwarranted multiplication of entities and an unnecessary complication which always adds more complexity than it explains.

The difference between science and theology is that science starts with the phenomenon and thinks up ways to explain it; theology thinks up the explanation (invariably their god) and then either invents phenomena to justify it or thinks up reason to explain why there aren't any. In other words, science is honest and true; religion is neither.

Abandoning gods will do nothing to detract from the sum total of human knowledge and will actually move us closer to the truth by discarding an old and useless hypothesis which explains nothing at all. Our knowledge increases when we stop being wrong because we now know that the old idea was wrong.

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What a Wonderful World

This amazing video was shot with a mobile phone in Kruger National Park.

Friday 18 January 2013

Darwin's Powerful Science

Darwinian Evolution By Natural Selection, producing descent with modification, is one of the most powerful and fundamental ideas in all of science. That might sound like a sweeping statement but we are really only just beginning to appreciate both the depth and the full scope of the idea. I'll give some examples of its application later. First a little history.

Even as late as the 1950's, a century after Darwin's and Wallace's seminal paper to the Linnean Society, serious biologists were still questioning certain aspects of Darwinian Evolution, the evolution of altruism being one such problem. Even amongst evolutionary biologists debate raged over such questions as whether natural selection operated at the individual or group level, with some using the 'problem' of altruism to reason that selection must be operating at the group level because a tendency to self-sacrifice for the 'common good' would give more successful groups.

For this reason, they argued, a group with altruistic members would be more successful than one comprised of selfish individuals, yet selfishness should have been giving individuals an advantage over altruistic ones. And yet we see altruism in many successful species and especially those tending to form herds, hence, so they argued, natural selection can't be operating at the individual level because that's not what we see.

But reproduction and variation occurs at the individual level so that is where selection must be operating, even though it doesn't seem that way.

Some people even went so far as to argue that the 'unresolved' problem of altruism meant that Darwinian Evolution by Natural Selection must be flawed. They pointed to an apparent difference between what the theory predicts and what we see. (Creationist quote-mine alert!) Creation pseudo-scientists still parrot this out-dated argument, presenting it as an on-going unresolved controversy much as they present Lamarckian Evolution as current Darwinian theory. And of course, in the propagandistic world of creation pseudo-science, aimed at it is at the simplistic scientifically illiterate who find simple black and white easier to understand, any controversy, no matter how slight or imaginary or as yet unresolved, means the entire body of science is completely and irretrievably wrong.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Scientifically Illiterate Jesus

Here is more evidence from the Bible that an omniscient creator god couldn't have written it.

The interesting thing to me is how the vested interests of religious apologists and the desperate needs of Creationists to pretend they know better than people who learn science and stuff, cause them to perform the mental gymnastics needed to ignore all this evidence in the very book they worship as infallible. One trick they employ is to try to convince themselves that all modern science is wrong and the Bronze Age goat-herders knew all there is to know. In this day and age that tactic takes considerable skill at avoiding learning or finding ways to dismiss it.

I've shown in 'How We Know a God Didn't Write the Bible' how the Old Testament describes a god who was necessarily as ignorant as the Bronze Age goat-herders who wrote it. It is of course inconceivable that a god who wanted to have a book written to show us how clever, wise and powerful he is would have chosen people with such a primitive understanding of the universe without educating them first, and then allowed them to get away with such a hilarious travesty and so present the god as frankly, no wiser than an uneducated Bronze Age goat-herder.

Can you imagine a Bronze Age scribe writing a lot of stuff about relativity, quantum mechanics, atoms, germ theory and memetic evolution? Who would have taken him seriously? Of course, he had to write about stuff as he understood it. Unfortunately, he made the magic man above the sky he was assuming must have done it look as scientifically illiterate as he was. How could it be otherwise?

The usual tactic of Christians, when shown the absurdity, misogyny, racism, misanthropy and sheer brutal inhumanity in the Old Testament is to turn their backs on it, keeping the useful parts obviously, and claiming Jesus changed all that.

That excuse isn't open to them either in the case of it's manifest scientific ignorance though, because the Iron Age writers of the New Testament were little better than the Bronze Age writers of the Old Testament when it came to science. Consequently, they had the 'Son of God' who was also the God of the Old Testament, coming out with equally bad science based on the ignorance of the time. Jesus of course, or more accurately, those who wrote the myths of Jesus, had little more science to go on than the Bronze Age goat-herders. The only significant scientific progress had been in the smelting of iron and the use of wheels. (That's right, the writers of large parts of the Old Testament - the parts Creationists hold to be literal scientific truth, the font of all knowledge and the best available account of how the universe and life on earth arose - hadn't even thought of the wheel).

Let's now enjoy some of the accounts of what Jesus believed the universe to be like according to those who wrote about him.

Just like the ancient Egyptians, and people in many other pre-scientific societies, Jesus thought the heart was the seat of emotions, where thinking took place:

And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?

Mark 2:8

For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

Mark 11:23

And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him.

Luke 9:47

"Hey Jesus! Didn't it bother you that these writers made it look like you and your dad knew no better than uneducated Iron Age ignoramuses how his creation worked"?

Jesus also thought that illness and disabilities, including blindness and dumbness, were cause by evils spirits (the same magical thinking which inspired all those medieval witch-burnings).

As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil.

Matthew 9:32

And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit.

Mark 9:17

And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.

Luke 11:14

Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.

Matthew 12:22

And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.

Luke 13:11

It's not just disability which is cause by demons either. Seizures and insanity were also caused by evil spirits in Jesus' day, apparently.

And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him.

Luke 9:39

And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

Matthew 17:14-19

But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.

Matthew 12:28

But then what did these simple people know of physiology and the aetiology of diseases? They didn't have the benefit of years of painstaking research and vast medical libraries full of scientific journals with their peer-reviewed papers.

All they had to go on was the received 'wisdom' of superstitious people to whom a magical view of the universe seemed all too obvious. Wrong, of course, but obvious to those brought up in a tradition of magical superstition where events were cause by magic spirits and the universe had been created by a magic man in the sky.

"Hey Jesus! Why did you let the authors of the 'Gospels' make you look like a scientifically illiterate ignoramus on medical matters"?

This all reminds me of the unfortunate Kurt Wise, the Young-Earth Creationist:

Later, as a sophomore in high school, he took a newly-purchased Bible and a pair of scissors and cut out every verse which could not be interpreted literally if scientific determinations on the age of the earth and evolution were true. He pursued this task with a flashlight under the covers of his bed for several months; at the end, he had removed so much material that "with the cover of the Bible taken off, I attempted to physically lift the Bible from the bed between two fingers. Yet, try as I might, and even with the benefit of intact margins throughout the pages of Scripture, I found it impossible to pick up the Bible without it being rent in two."[7] Wise decided to reject evolution instead of Biblical literalism, deciding:

...that the rejection of evolution does not necessarily involve the rejection of all of science. In fact, I have come to learn that science owes its very existence and rationale to the claims of Scripture. On the other hand, I have also learned that evolution is not the only claim of modern science which must be rejected if Scripture is assumed to be true.[7]

Kurt Wise doesn’t need the challenge; he volunteers that, even if all the evidence in the universe flatly contradicted Scripture, and even if he had reached the point of admitting this to himself, he would still take his stand on Scripture and deny the evidence. This leaves me, as a scientist, speechless... We have it on the authority of a man who may well be creationism’s most highly qualified and most intelligent scientist that no evidence, no matter how overwhelming, no matter how all-embracing, no matter how devastatingly convincing, can ever make any difference.

I can't say I entirely agree with Richard Dawkins' charitable view of Wise. To deny the evidence of one's own eyes in favour of an evidence-free superstition, which just happens to be the same superstition that his parents had and as the label they pinned on him as a child with no say in the matter, is an abdication of the moral responsibility to admit to being wrong and to change one's mind when the evidence changes. It is staggeringly arrogant to assume that there is no possibility of any evidence which will convince you that your opinion is even slightly wrong.

I think the answer lies not in some perverse notion of personal integrity but in the realms of psychology and/or psychiatry.

Anyway, this blog isn't about the psychological damage that religion can do to its unfortunate victims, it's about how the Bible that people like Kurt Wise regard as the sacred word of an omniscient god quite clearly could not have been written, either directly or indirectly, by such a god.

The Bible is littered with scientific errors, and errors which are indisputably wrong. Of course, another way of looking at what Kurt Wise claims to have done is that he cut out all the scientific errors in the Bible and found there was almost nothing left. Should we be surprised at this? Of course not. What did the authors of the Bible know of science? The reason we don't live the way they did is because we know more than they did.

No creator god could have so misunderstood or been so abysmally ignorant of the real science of the universe. There is not a single piece of new scientific information in the Bible that was not known to the people at the time it was written - and that's a damning indictment of a book which its supporter claim is a book of science and holds eternal truth. That case can also be made for every other holy book of course. No prophet ever wrote about something then unknown to science which subsequently proved to be true.

It is more than a mere coincidence that the apparent scientific knowledge and understanding of the god who reputedly wrote the Bible was no better than that of the ordinary people of the time it was written.

So, just like the Old Testament did, the New Testament provides evidence that the Bible could not have been written by the god described in it. A book cannot validate itself but it can certainly falsify itself, and the Bible shows how to do it.

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How We Know a God Didn't Write The Bible

I'll say one thing for the Bible: it's full of good laughs.

If you can ignore the gratuitous violence, brutality, misogyny, child abuse, racism and appalling misanthropy, there are some pieces of ignorant stupidity which can be a thoroughly enjoyable read to connoisseurs of the absurd, written as it was by simple people with a very primitive understanding of the world they lived in. We can forgive them for this ignorance of course. If it wasn't for generations of scientific research we would all be that ignorant still.

Knowledge doesn't come sleeting through the atmosphere to lodge itself in our brains; we have to learn it and because we don't normally have the time to discover everything afresh for ourselves, we rely on other people to have discovered it for us and record it so we can learn from them. Bronze Age nomads simply hadn't got that history of research and body of knowledge to draw on. Incidentally, that's why so many people who can't or won't learn from that body of accumulated knowledge seem to have the same level of understanding as Bronze-age nomads.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

If You Want To Debate An Atheist...

Trying to debate a Creationist or fundamentalist of any creed is sometimes like trying to hold a conversation with someone who speaks a language or employs a grammar neither of you understands. There's you expecting, or at least if you're experienced in these matters, half hoping for, a logical discussion about the validity of evidence, what it means, how it has any bearing on the matter and why it supports a particular point of view.

Does anyone remember having such a discussion with a Creationist?

Me neither.

With this in minds, and mindful also of the mental state a certain deluded Bronx resident got himself into when he claimed to have irrefutable scientific evidence for the Christian god, only to find his fantasy world collapsed around him when given the simple challenge to substantiate his claim expressed in scientific terms, namely:

There is verifiable, falsifiable, scientific evidence for only the Christian God for which no possible natural explanation can exist.

Okay, maybe the word 'falsifiable' was superfluous there but his objection was essentially that it wasn't fair because I wasn't supposed to put it that way and he wouldn't be allowed to delete answers and debating points he didn't like, wouldn't be able to unilaterally claim to have won when he had no arguments left and wouldn't be able to use the normal delaying tactics, obfuscations, diversions and evasions he had been rehearsing, apparently under the impression that this is what constitutes normal debate with religious matters where the point is to try to trick your opponent into believing something you know isn't true or to impress them with your tactical skills.

In reality of course, the poor little man had just realised what his claim meant. A bit like striding onto the pitch boasting loudly about how there is not a pitcher in the land who can pitch a ball you can't knock out of the ball-park, only to find, when the ball is pitched, that you don't have a bat.

So, with this in mind, I put these few points together to help any wanabee creationist or religious fundamentalist debaters who imagine they are going to win debates with atheists, agnostics and/or evolutionists. Some of them might seem obvious but not, so it seems, to creationists and religious fundamentalists.

If you wish to refer to any of them, they are numbered for ease of reference. Just append #nn to the page URL where nn is the number in the list.
  1. Don't lie. To show us you know you need to lie for your cause shows us you know your cause is a lie. Lies can include a pretence of expertise. Especially in science, theology and apologetics very many non-believers are far more expert than you may think. We are also notorious fact checkers - which is often one reason we are Atheists.

    That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

    Christopher Hitchens
    A lie can be a simple claim of certainty where there is no possibility of it. It can also include a claim that a single authority figure overrules an entire body of science. The opinions of a single creationist biologist do not trump the entire collective body of scientific opinion. Almost all evolutionary biologists agree with Darwinian Evolution and there are no peer-reviewed scientific papers published in any journal of biological science which supports the notion of Intelligent Design. (Michael Behe, Transcript of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Day 12 am, p. 22 ln 25 - p.23 ln 5.)

    Another form of lying is using the straw man fallacy. I'll list the common fallacies you should avoid later on.
  2. Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse.
    Christopher Hitchens
  3. Don't Quote from your favourite 'sacred' book. Before your book can be accepted as the infallible word of a god you first have to show beyond reasonable doubt, using external evidence, that the god you are claiming wrote, dictated or inspired it, actually exists, otherwise your claim is mere dogma, not evidence, and not something we need to pay any attention to, any more so that we would regard a book of Greek myths as gospel truth.

    To try to use a book as evidence simply shows that you don't understand the concept of evidence.
  4. Don't make evidence-free assertions. The only claims worth considering are those supported with evidence, logic or deductive reasoning based on known and verifiable facts. To do so again shows us you don't understand the concept of evidence and so don't have opinions worth considering.

    We can be certain that you would eagerly seize on any scrap of hard evidence so your reliance on assertion merely highlights the lack of it as well as your awareness of that deficit.
  5. Don't try to impress us with faith. Faith itself is a fallacy, as this article shows. Faith shows us that you have abandoned learning and reason in favour of dogma and magical thinking. Your belief in an idea is not scientific data and does nothing to support your argument. It merely detracts from your credibility as an objective witness and again draws attention to your awareness of the lack of any hard evidence.
  6. Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.
    Christopher Hitchens
  7. Don't expect respect for an evidence-free opinion. You have a right to your opinions but you have no right to demand others regard your opinions as fact. You have no right to private facts.
  8. Don't try to trap us with loaded questions or false premises. This will show us you are disingenuous and have decided to use tactics over substance as a debating ploy because you know your argument has no substance. We are well aware of these tactics of the sophist. Using these tricks will show that you have already conceded defeat over your substantive claims. We are not interested or impressed by your skill at deception and trickery. It's a form of lying and lying is an attempt to make people believe something you know is not true.
  9. Don't try special pleading. Special pleading is where you demand a lower standard of evidence for your claim than you demand of others. If your beliefs can't stand the same tests as scientific opinion then they are not worth holding. Using this tactic will show us that you lack confidence in your own reasoning and know you have a belief which required a low level of intellectual honesty and personal integrity - the God of Low Standards argument. We are not going to compromise our intellectual integrity simply to believe something you probably don't have much confidence in yourself.
  10. Don't use fallacious reasoning. You may have been fooled by them but you have the responsibility for your own arguments and for checking their validity. All the creationist and ID fallacies have been refuted. I'll provide a fuller list in a moment but the common ones are The God of The Gaps Fallacy, The False Dichotomy Fallacy, The Ontological Fallacy, The Cosmological Fallacy and The Teleological Fallacy.
  11. We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.
    Christopher Hitchens
  12. Don't quote the opinions of others as fact. Opinions are not fact, no matter how long ago they were expressed. It does not matter whether this 'expert' or that believes such and such. The only opinions worth considering are those based on evidence, logic or deductive reasoning.

    A great deal of theology is based on opinions about other peoples' opinions. In fact the entire body of opinion about the validity of sacred books is based on other peoples' opinions that the book is divinely inspired. There is no extra-biblical or extra-Qur'anic evidence that they are any more valid than any other ancient books. If all 'sacred' texts were truths there would be many different realities. The self-evident fact that no two religions ever arose with the same set of dogmata should tell you that books do not create reality.

    Just as with buildings, unless opinions make contact with reality they should not stand, and will not stand the test of scrutiny. Unquestioning acceptance of the opinions of others places them in a position of power over you and reduces you to a mere cypher.
  13. I suppose that one reason I have always detested religion is its sly tendency to insinuate the idea that the universe is designed with 'you' in mind or, even worse, that there is a divine plan into which one fits whether one knows it or not. This kind of modesty is too arrogant for me.
    Christopher Hitchens
  14. Don't argue from ignorance. Gaps in your knowledge and understanding are not scientific data. To claim expertise where you have none is a lie and lies are intended to deceive. You insult our intelligence when you try deceptions and you show the world you know you are pushing a falsehood.

    If you don't want to learn don't try to debate with an Atheist. If you do want to learn, be prepared to look it up for yourself. Never more so than today, ignorance must be either wilful or feigned for anyone living in a developed economy. You may come from a culture which prizes ignorance like it probably prizes virginity. Don't expect us to subscribe to that primitive ethic.

Now for that list of fallacies which are often (almost always) used by Creationists, fundamentalists and religious apologists. I got these from Jason Long's Biblical Nonsense: A Review Of The Bible For Doubting Christians.

  • Bifurcation or Black & White Fallacy. Where only two alternatives are offered. Usually a ridiculous one and the one being promoted, where there are several plausible candidates. See also the False Dichotomy. A form of this fallacy is Plurium interrogationum where a yes or no answer is demanded for a complex question, for example, "Do you believe the characters in the Bible were real people"? The correct answer is that some were, some might have been and some probably weren't.
  • Argumentum ad baculum. Implied threats. "You'll burn in Hell if you don't believe in Jesus"/"You'll burn in Hell if you don't worship Allah".
  • Ad hominem. Attack the opponent's character. The person's character need have nothing to do with the validity of the argument unless the proposer is putting the weight of his/her personal authority and integrity into the argument and inviting you to regard him/her as a credible witness.
  • The irrelevant conclusion. "Jesus died for our sins. Many people now accept Jesus. This proves that Jesus was the son of God". No. The conclusion does not follow from the assertions, even if the assertions could be proven.
  • Non sequitur. The conclusion does not follow from the premise. "Because Mark wrote a biography of Jesus he must have been an expert in ancient Hebrew." Er... no. Any one could write a biography of Jesus without knowing anything very much about ancient Hebrew. It might not be worth reading but writing it doesn't make a person an expert.
  • The red herring. Introducing an irrelevance into the argument.
  • The straw man. A (usually infantile) parody of the opponents position is attacked instead of the real thing. This relies on the ignorance of the audience for success so is an almost universal tactic of Creationists and religious apologists. The trick is to make it look like the opponent is defending something no sane person would believe. (See above).
  • The universal reply. "You just need to read the Bible/Koran". "You need to open your mind.", "God did it!", etc, etc, ad nauseum.

So there we are. If you want to debate with an Atheist you'll come a cropper if you try any of the above. All you'll have achieved is to show how dishonest and disingenuous you need to be to be a Creationist, religious fundamentalist or apologist for Christianity or Islam or whatever religious dogma you are promoting or defending.

If the above means you can't hope to win a debate with an Atheist or evolutionary biologist or other scientist then that means you have no real reason to be arguing against us. You might like to think about that and work out why that might be. If might involve you re-thinking your beliefs. There will be no reason we should re-think ours.

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