Saturday, January 31, 2009

MacGyver-ing the Universe

Here’s what we know. Approximately 13.7 billion years ago, a singularity of infinite energy, infinite curvature, and infinite mass exploded cataclysmically, spraying particles out into space. As this matter became less dense and cooled, new particles formed from it, they alligned into new lawful patterns of behavior, and stars began to coagulate. Those stars eventually cooked the matter, forming still more kinds of elements, and some of them went supernova and sprayed these new heavier and more complicated elements out into space. That matter eventually coalesced into rings around stars, and then gathered into heaps that became planets. On some of those planets, at least on ours, some 3 billion years ago, primitive self-replicating strands of molecules began to form. Environmental forces were conducive to some configurations of these molecules and not others. More and more complex structures and patterns in those groupings of matter slowly began to emerge over millions of years by tiny steps. In time, organisms of greater and greater complexity formed spurred on by mutation, variation, and environments that were harsher on some than others. Slowly, adaptations accumulated, and in many cases, a long history of natural selection produced remarkably complicated organisms with highly developed features for responding to their environments and propagating the informational code for those features to their offspring. About 3-5 million years ago, hominids emerged on the African savannah that roved in bands and foraged for sustenance. In time, these creatures’ brains grew in size and their cognitive abilities for language and problem solving expanded. Now, you are here as the recent product of this series of events.

Despite a widespread consensus among our very best and brightest, and a mountain of compelling evidence (Daniel Dennett has said that we are as sure of the occurrence of evolution as we about the existence of oxygen), very few Americans (15%) believe that this is the whole story about the origins of human life. To be fair, many Americans, around 45%, now acknowledge that evolution occurred in the history of life on Earth. But of those, the largest percentage (30%) contend that God played a crucial role in it by “guiding it.” CBS Poll on Evolution

God created humans in present form
51%
Humans evolved, God guided the process
30%
Humans evolved, God did not guide process
15%

If we resist the urge to be cynical or despair about these embarrassingly low numbers compared to the rest of the educated and civilized world, we can see that 45% percent as a kind of progress. At least many people who only a few years ago would have denied any claim that they took to be contrary to a literal interpretation of the Bible are now making a nominal effort to reconcile the two views with this hybrid “guidance” position.

There is a set of baffling puzzles that are raised by the guidance view, however. Confining ourselves just to evolution and the development of life, not the origins of the cosmos, we must ask, in what capacity to God affect the process or unfolding of evolutionary history on earth? If life evolved by natural selection, what work was their left for God to do? Do we need to invoke God in order to explain the history of life, or has the theory of evolution rendered God extraneous?

There was a time when the picture we had of the naturally selected history of life was rather skeletal. Darwin, famously, did not know the exact method of information transfer from one generation to the next. Mendelian genetics and the discovery of DNA filled in those pieces of the puzzle. Biologists have proposed, tested, and rejected many taxonomical trees that attempted to locate different species according to their nearest relatives. New discoveries in microbiology, geology, and paleontology have forced us to redraw the tree of life, and have given us countless “missing link” species. Every year, our picture of the history of life on earth comes into sharper focus and more details are filled in.

There have been those (51% by the poll mentioned above) who deny evolution altogether and insist that all life on earth was created in its present form 6,000-10,000 years ago by God. One of their responses to evolutionary theory has been to argue that scientists cannot produce the missing links between species. They have been undeterred when one of those so-called missing links, such as Archaeopteryx is found, insisting, as Michael Shermer has pointed out, that for every gap that is filled, two more appear on each side of it. Fortunately, the numbers of people in full denial of evolution have been going down, albeit more slowly than they should. It can be difficult to reconcile the existence of antibiotic resistant germs or the need for getting a new flu shot each season with an outright denial that evolution happens.

For those who acknowledge evolution and insist that God had a hand in it, however, we must wonder about the explanatory gaps he is intended to fill. So far, we have filled in a great deal, nothing in the historical record or in biological research has indicated that there is some looming hole that we will not be able to fill. Even the non-scientist judge and jury in the Dover, Penn. Intelligent Design trial could see through the flimsy and dishonest attempts by religionists to argue otherwise. With every new fossil, and every new completed genome for a species, the room for this evolutionary God of the gaps shrinks.

If “guidance” is to mean anything at all in this context, it must mean something like God intervened in events or processes to produce outcomes that, were it not for God’s meddling, would not have occurred otherwise. So far, we do not have any serious indications that anything like this occurred in the history of life on earth. And if we do not have any convincing empirical evidence that God meddled, or boosted, or pruned the tree, what could be a person’s grounds for holding the hybrid view? The obvious answer is that they possess an independent set of religious convictions or motivations that they are attempting to reconcile with what has become scientific common sense. They believe that God created life, and they can see that the evidence that life evolved is undeniable (even the Pope has come around on this), so they must merge the two views to reduce the cognitive dissonance.

But the dissonance is still lurking around the corner. If evolution occurred, and God somehow guided that process, how is it that no religious doctrine every gave any indication of that whatsoever? Most religious traditions have a robust and fairly complicated story to tell about God’s involvement in the creation of humanity. Their doctrines do not lack for detail or interest in the topic. And yet none of those stories resemble in the slightest way anything like what we now know about evolutionary history. Even the most elaborate exegetical gymnastics cannot really make the Adam and Eve story in Genesis look anything like the account of human life we have from the fossil and biological evidence. If God played a role in it, then it wasn’t anything like what any of the religious traditions on the planet have said it was. And that discrepancy alone creates an enormous problem for anyone wanting to espouse the hybrid view. The God they are now dancing with doesn’t resemble the one that brought them to the prom in the first place.

Here’s another problem: leaving the origin stories from religions aside entirely, suppose the form that God’s meddling took was to prune the tree here and there in order to get the desired outcome—God created a sort of cosmic topiary so that the evolutionary process would produce some set of species that he wanted. A lightning bolt here, or a well-placed falling boulder could thwart one species and give another just the edge it needed to win the race. But can anyone take seriously the notion that the alleged grand creator of all reality would employ these sorts of microscopic and short-sighted means to achieve his goals? If God’s end goal was to produce homo sapiens, or more likely, a rich hospitable habitat for bacteria judging from the numbers, and this goal was evident to him from the outset, it boggles the mind to think that he would set out to achieve that end through such a torturous, inelegant, inefficient path. It’s even more laughable to suggest that in all of his divine wisdom and power, he’d be forced to resort to dropping a big rock on some unsuspecting Cro-Magnon in order to get the desired outcome millions of years and millions of generations later. On an isolated road one night, I jury rigged a burnt out fuse in my truck with a paperclip so that my headlights would work long enough to get me home. It wasn’t a very good solution, but I lacked the resources or the power to get there any other way. Would any God worthy of the name MacGyver his way through billions of years of history with bubble gum and duct tape? Lightning bolts and falling boulders scream out bumbling incompetence, not omnipotence and omniscience.

Furthermore, the problem is not just that the gaps for God shrink with new developments in biology. It’s that there just doesn’t seem to be any real explanatory need to insert God into the equation. If we’ve got a natural, non-purposeful, non-intelligent account of the whole series of events, then what exactly is added to our understanding by still insisting that God guided it? There are no real indications that any guiding was needed. So adding God into the account doesn’t actually explain anything. It certainly doesn’t give us the ability to make any predictions that we couldn’t otherwise. The hypothesis doesn’t seem to be corroborated by any empirical testing. So what motivation could we have, besides a lingering affection for the stories and doctrines that were artfully insinuated into our heads as children?

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

This may be one of the reasons people have a hard time accepting the theory of evolution


The First Animal On Earth Was Significantly More Complex Than Previously Believed
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080410153648.htm

There seems to be a lot of revising in the theory of evolution like the premise

"simpler entities progress into more complex entities"

I guess its now harder to sell people the fact that an alledged radom process created a somehwat complex creature on earth...

Anonymous said...

even atheist professors have their problems with evolution...


Prominent Atheist Professor of Law and Philosophy Thomas Nagel Calls Intelligent Design Scientific and Constitutional to "Mention" in Science Classes

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/09/prominent_atheist_professor_of.html#more

Player Piano said...

"There seems to be a lot of revising in the theory of evolution" is the brilliant observation deducted by Anonymous.

And how is this a bad thing? In science, when evidence shows that a theory is wrong, we update the theory or abandon it altogether.

In religion, someone says something and then it doesn't change for the next few thousand years, though people have many conflicting and wildly different interpretations of it and fight over them.

As someone else once said:

"Philosophy is questions that may never be answered - religion is answers that may never be questioned".

I am proud that science revises its views in accordance with new evidence -- but religion doesn't. So how can you trust religious conclusions?

M. Tully said...

Headlines Can Be Deceiving

Anon refers to an article in Science Daily in which the headline could leave the impression that biologists now believe that animal complexity suddenly sprung into existence (a good way to generate google hits, but it doesn't capture what the article actually says).

Going back to the source material at the National Science Foundation, shows that what the authors were really stating was that at the first unique (and detectable) animal speciation event, the last common animal ancestor was more complex than previously thought, not that complexity suddenly emerged. The "big shake-up" of the timeline can be seen close up here.

In fact, contary to the headline, the authors never suggest anything about the initial complexity of the "first animal" on earth.

Baconsbud said...

I think too many people try to over complicate why so many don't accept evolution. I will try to explain this but could be more confusing then I want it to be, I will be 46 this year and have very little actual knowledge about evolution. The small amount I do have is well supported by science. My knowledge of religion is a little better then evolution but unlike evolution very little of what the religions say is support by any real evidence.
The reason I see for most americans rejection of evolution is simply that most americans aren't educated about evolution. All I remember from school about evolution is that some fish might have developed a fake eye on its tail to protect itself from predators. I figure most americans seldom receives the education they need to understand what evolution is from people that actually know and understand it. The few christians that i know are very misinformed by those that it is to their advantage to keep them ignorant.
You also bring up those that say god plays a part in evolution. I see them as wanting to keep god in their lives because it makes it easier for them to handle many parts of life. To completely give up their god would cause to much trouble in their lives so they build a story that will allow both evolution and god be a part of their lives.

Reginald Selkirk said...

The reason I see for most americans rejection of evolution is simply that most americans aren't educated about evolution.

Yes, and why is that? I suggest it is because many religious people brainwash their children against accepting evolution while they are still young, at home and in Sunday school, and because many K-12 teachers do not do a good job of teaching evolution for fear of upsetting those students and their parents. Let's place the blame where it belongs.

Happy 200th anniversary of Darwin;s birth to all, and happy 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species as well.

Reginald Selkirk said...

a singularity of infinite energy, infinite curvature, and infinite mass exploded...

I suspect that should be infinite energy density and infinite mass density.

Anonymous said...

um sorry piano player but when a scientific theory has to consantly revise itself it is crap. theories like the second law etc are much ore accepted because they standed
the test of time. Evo theory is crap because they are always tweaking it to fit a secular worldview. How ca a theory truly be scientific if it does not accept falsification??? Uh it cannot...

Anonymous said...

I just love to see the atheist here spin the article on the jelly fish. hey guess what guys your theory is crap. its basic premise was "simple entites gave rise to more complex entites" which you atheist need to believe in to get a random universe...seems like if the first creature on earth was not soo simple than atheist have no good explantion for their non god theory of life.

more complex creatures = more intelligent

first creature was more intelligent than its kin

SO

Darwins tree theory is crap

and

intelligence is not an evolved trait like you monkey lovers thought...

Player Piano said...

Anonymous,

I'm not sure that you have any idea what you're talking about. Let's see why:

"um sorry piano player"

It's Player Piano, not Piano Player. Why do so many people have such a hard time with this? It's not that difficult to freaking read is it? Of course, you have misinterpreted the facts so often in your comments, I'm not really surprised to learn that you're not actually paying attention to what you've read before you comment on it.

"but when a scientific theory has to consantly revise itself it is crap."

Brilliant deduction, again, my friend. Why is it a scientific theory -- because it revises itself according to new evidence. That means that we deduce how something might work, devise a test for that hypothesis, test the hypothesis, check our conclusions, re-test again and again and again, constantly revising our hypotheses to explain our results. Then once we have enough supporting evidence, it can rightly be called a theory. You have no idea how any of that works, do you? You don't even know what a scientific theory is, nor how it works. Why should I take anything you say seriously when you don't even have a basic knowledge of science?

"theories like the second law etc are much ore accepted because they standed the test of time."

Evolution by natural selection has stood the test of time brilliantly, as has gravity. But that doesn't mean that we haven't made wholesale refinements in our understanding. There is still a great deal we don't understand about how exactly gravity works (for example, see many of things scientists are planning to do in the Large Hadron Collider). But you don't people going around talking about Intelligent Falling do you? Gravity is just a theory, eh? Would you like to test that hypothesis for me, in the spirit of science, since you're such an expert on it?

"Evo theory is crap because they are always tweaking it to fit a secular worldview."

Secular: I don't think that word means what you think it means.

Secular means that something is impartial to religion. Something that is secular is not opposed to religion: it just avoids the subject of religion. When people say science is secular, they mean that is outside the bounds of religion.

"How ca a theory truly be scientific if it does not accept falsification??? Uh it cannot..."

Evolution is falsifiable. If you could find bunny fossils in the Cambrian, I'm pretty sure you could invalidate much of our current understanding of the Theory of Evolution.

Would you like to know what isn't falsifiable?

Religion. Religion is largely not falsifiable. Most of its claims cannot be tested. Yet you have confidence in that and not science?

Regrettable.

Anonymous said...

"The reason I see for most americans rejection of evolution is simply that most americans aren't educated about evolution'

yah i guess we inbred right wing republicans are just too stupid to see the truth of evolution...I like this argument. the next time i disagree with someone i will claim that they just arent educated enough to have my position...

Anonymous said...

hey player paino you may want try and understand science before you try and correct people about it. A theory cannot continue to stand if it has been shown to be false. Just like philogeston theory of air was shown to be false. But despite scientific theories being falsifiable the method of science is not...

So you cannot claim that sci theories can be revised least they are a new theory...duh!

sounds like someone doesnt know the difference between scientific theory, science, old theory, new theory, bad theory

Anonymous said...

how is evolution falsifiable if theorist keep updating it and still call it evolution???

perhaps you meant to say that newer theories of evolution will be the product of revision

but you cannot say that these newer theories are in fact the same as the old ones...


the method of science...the practice of scientific work is no more falsifiable than rod divining it just happens that science works for us o shall i say conform to our secular society values???

Player Piano said...

Anonymous,

I'm afraid that you still don't know what exactly it is which you're discussing.

"A theory cannot continue to stand if it has been shown to be false"

And how exactly has evolution by natural selection been shown to be false? By the way, your misunderstanding of the scientific method does not count.

"So you cannot claim that sci theories can be revised least they are a new theory...duh!"

Wow, you still have no idea how this works, do you? Theories can be modified without being entirely replaced. You really should think about what you're saying before you say it.

"sounds like someone doesnt know the difference between scientific theory, science, old theory, new theory, bad theory"

I agree...where could you find this person? I suggest you look in the mirror.

"how is evolution falsifiable if theorist keep updating it and still call it evolution???"

The theory of evolution by natural selection is falsifiable because it makes claims that can be tested. It is subject to experimental scrutiny. Particular parts of the theory are updated at different times by new experimental evidence. Gravity is also subject to new evidence, but that doesn't mean that we throw it out entirely. As I said earlier, if you really doubt the science here, you should have the conviction of your beliefs and test the hypothesis of intelligent falling. Then again, maybe you can see how absurd your lines of reasoning really are.

"the practice of scientific work is no more falsifiable than rod divining"

Oh really? Does rod divining make predictions which can be rigorously confirmed by experiment? Do these predictions hold up to experimental analysis? When an unexpected result is obtained, do rod diviners re-evaluate their understanding?

Rod-divining is falsifiable if it makes predictions which can be tested. However, I have more confidence in science because it has a rigorous system to determine if its predictions are accurate.

Once again, you have demonstrated a poor understanding of how science actually works.

I am sorry that you have been so badly misinformed. I would hope that you could learn more about how this stuff works. It's actually really fascinating.

Baconsbud said...

Yes anonymous through the lack of education you have shown that you have no understanding of evolution beyond what you have been told lies about it. I doubt you ever check to see if your preacher is lying to you about what he claims to know. There can be no true debate if all you do is repeat the same lies you have been told. The sad part is the people telling you these lies either have no idea they are lying to you or they are so afraid of you knowing the truth that they justify it in hopes of saving your soul. If i'm not educated well enough to argue a point unlike you I will learn about the subject before diving into it.

steve martin said...

"...a singularity of infinite energy, infinite curvature, and infinite mass exploded cataclysmically, spraying particles out into space."

Where did that come from?

From a blast...came the order of the universe?

Throw a grenade into your closet and see what kind of order will follow.

Order is created. It just doesn't happen.

Reginald Selkirk said...

theories like the second law etc are much ore accepted because they standed
the test of time. Evo theory is crap because they are always tweaking it to fit a secular worldview.


Thus reinforcing the stereotype that dissenters from evolutionary theory are generally very poorly informed. Check out this article from the October 2008 issue of Scientific American:
Does Nature Break the Second Law of Thermodynamics?
by J. Miguel Rubi

in which the author describes extensions of the second law of thermodynamics. It seems the SLOT, as originally formulated, only applied to systems at equilibrium...

And evolutionary theory has never been tweaked "to fit a secular worldview," it has been extended and modified to incorporate new evidence, generated by observation and experimentation. That it all happens to fit a secular worldview is a reasonable interpretation, not an axiom.

Reginald Selkirk said...

Where did that come from?

Let me guess your answer: "we don't know, therefore a magical sky pixie did it."

Reginald Selkirk said...

Order is created. It just doesn't happen.

So when snowflakes form, that is an act of creation?

Reginald Selkirk said...

Order is created. It just doesn't happen.

Here's a quote from the concluding paragraph of the above-cited article on the second law of thermodynamics by J. Miguel Rubi:

"In short, my colleagues and I have shown that the development of order from chaos, far from contradicting the second law, fits nicely into a broader framework of thermodynamics."

Reginald Selkirk said...

hey player paino you may want try and understand science before you try and correct people about it.

Here's enough irony to last me all week.

A theory cannot continue to stand if it has been shown to be false...
So you cannot claim that sci theories can be revised least they are a new theory...duh!
sounds like someone doesnt know the difference between scientific theory, science, old theory, new theory, bad theory


Let's consider another example: Newton's "Laws" of motion, including his formula for gravitational attraction. This was a great step forward, and is still taught in schools today. And yet, it has been extended by Einstein's theories or relativity for cases of very great mass and very great velocity. I say "extended," but I could have said "replaced." Still, it is taught in schools, and teachers do not natter on about how Newton was wrong.

Reginald Selkirk said...

How ca a theory truly be scientific if it does not accept falsification??? Uh it cannot...

You are so right, and that is why Intelligent Design is not scientific, and even several ID proponents have acknowledged that ID does not have a "theory." (e.g. George Gilder, Paul Nelson)

Evolution, however, is falsifiable, i.e. it can be put to the test and is open to be being proven wrong. Perhaps you are confused by the fact that it has passed all those tests.

By the way, given the inability of inductive scientific experimentation to conclusively "prove" results, which is sometimes misused by the ignorant to cast doubt on particular theories and particular bodies of evidence which they find distasteful, I think it is useful to recall that all inductive results are not deductively and conclusively "proven," and this includes things like the theory that the Earth is not flat.

steve martin said...

Reginald,

No. Your snowflakes are an obvious extension of your expolsive singularity that the pixes pushed the plunger to get started.

M. Tully said...

Steve Martin,

I could see your point when you quoted Matt on the singularity (although I found the rest of his post to be spot on).

Actually, modern physics (since incorporating quantum mechanics) has no singularity at the start of the inflation. There are two currently competing theories (both using standard proven physics and both mathematically viable) as to what initiated inflation. One uses a quantum tunnelling model, the other naturally occurring vacuum fluctuations.

In either case the First Law of Thermodynamics still holds. Energy can be neither created or destroyed, only altered in form. There is a huge body of data backing the first law up (going back some 14 billion years), to suggest an alternative hypothesis would require a consistent demonstration of violations of the First Law (beyond the Heisenberg uncertainty). A very unlikely possibility.

For a good lay discussion see Hawking's "A Brief History of Time"

For as far as we are able to detect, the net energy in the universe is constant and eternal.

Hope this helps.

M. Tully said...

Anon,

You wrote, "I just love to see the atheist here spin the article on the jelly fish."

Can you point out a particular place where something was "spun" outside of empirical data?

And,"more complex creatures = more intelligent"

Who says? You?

The pinot grape genome is about a third more complex than the human genome.

"to get a random universe"

OK, I'll go over this one time, slowly for you, THERE IS A RANDOM FACTOR AT THE QUANTUM LEVEL AND AFTER THAT EVENTS FOLLOW CAUSAL CHAINS. The universe isn't random!

"seems like if the first creature on earth was not soo simple "

You didn't read the sources, did you?

Instead of hanging out here, showing the world your ignorance of science, why don't you spend some time studying it? And I really mean that Anon. It is a big beautiful universe. Full of explanation and predictability, but still with a great deal of mystery yet to be unovered.

M. Tully said...

Steve,

Something I missed, "Order is created. It just doesn't happen."

Ever made rock candy? It's fun and tasty and shows how order arises out of chaos, naturally.

An expanding universe cools.

Anonymous said...

Hello all.

I am a Christian who stumbled on this blog because I found the phrase, "proving the negative" to be interesting.

I would love to get an Atheist perspective, and I hope I can find one here. Here's my question:

I have no problem with your beliefs about the origins of the world. (I did find it a bit ironic that the post began with "This we know," which rings with the familiarity of an expression of faith.)

I have never understood why an Atheist would find it offensive that I or anyone else would come to a different conclusion. It seems to me that pure Atheism--total persuasion that there is no god--would lead to apathy or at most amusement regarding the beliefs of those who do believe in a god. Paradoxically, Atheists have sounded very defensive in most of the debates I have heard.

So I was just wondering--and this is an honest question--why do the beliefs of others concern you so much?

Any thoughtful reply would be appreciated.

Yours with respect,

-D. Kempin

Reginald Selkirk said...

Hello Anonymous Christian D. Kempin.

I have never understood why an Atheist would find it offensive that I or anyone else would come to a different conclusion... So I was just wondering--and this is an honest question--why do the beliefs of others concern you so much?

Because many of your coreligionists are trying to instill their religious beliefs into public policy, including having the stupidity that is Creationism (see posts by "Anonymous" above) taught as an actual scientific theory in public school science classes. Including making all inhabitants of the land adhere by force to their religious notions of what constitutes marriage, and what medical techniques should be permissible. So, if you want to claim a "live and let live" philosophy, go preach it to your fellow theists.

It seems to me that pure Atheism--total persuasion that there is no god--would lead to apathy or at most amusement regarding the beliefs of those who do believe in a god.

Knowing the facts about the world, and having an emotional response to those facts are not the same thing. Do you really think that everyone who came to that particular belief about the world would have the same emotional reaction?

Casey said...

D. Kemptin,

I'm not sure I speak for everyone here. One problem I see is that since we live in a democratic society, political and moral judgments are being built up and enforced based of assumptions we find faulty. For example, I imagine a couple not being too concerning with what other people believe until they find out what they believe is exactly why this couple is not be allowed to get married.

Billions of dollars are spent, lives are radically altered, people are oppressed (and for the record I'm not claiming an atheistic force never oppressed a theistic one). All for something that many atheists claim is built up on very shaky ground.

The following articles on this blog have something to say regarding your question:

http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/hidden-costs-of-religious-belief.html

http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/2007/01/so-called-right-to-believe-confusing.html

http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/2007/02/is-religious-education-child-abuse.html

Though there may be more. Thank you for your question.

Matt McCormick said...

Thanks Casey. That's all right on the money. In fact, I'm kind of surprised that someone could have such a casual attitude about religious beliefs such that they think it doesn't matter, or that one person's beliefs have no effect on anyone else.

The short answer is: Believers are being irrational. And if we all have to live with you, be your neighbor and a fellow citizen with you, no one gets a free pass on having having psycho, dangerous ideas about armageddon and some invisible space being who reads minds, grants wishes, punishes people for eternity, and requires all sorts of irrational behavior and beliefs.

MM

M. Tully said...

Hello D. Kempin,

I think you ask a fair question. Here, let me refer you to a sociological poll of Americans, "Edgell also argues that today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past—they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy—and in America, that ‘core’ has historically been religious,” says Edgell." The article is not unique. Although the number of non-believers varies from study to study based on how the questions are asked, the results concerning attitudes stay pretty consistent.

So, put yourself in my shoes. Given those results wouldn't you want to change peoples' attitudes?

I also would like to piggyback on what Reginald, Casey and Matt said and at the same time address your question about apathy. For many years I really didn't care about anyone else's thoughts on the unknowable. How does the saying go? "Most of my friends are liberal Christians." Well, in my case anyway, that was true. I certainly didn't want to offend them so I didn't speak out. But then one day I thought about it. These were supposed to be my friends, when attitudes like those in the article were expressed, why did none of them speak out? They all knew at least one Atheist to disprove the amoral stereo type. Why not speak out?

Well, for whatever reason they couldn't. And to date, I still don't see that happening. So I speak out. I don't care if I offend my liberal Christian associates or anyone else.

The fact of the matter is that a once persecuted group of people called Christians rose to the majority in a place called the United States and now use the same pejoratives against non-believers that the ancient Romans used against them (you see to the Romans, Christians were Atheists because they didn't worship the Roman gods). And I can't find in myself to just put up with it.

Maybe if liberal Christians had stood up to their own when they spewed bigotry, I may never have spoken up. But the fact is that they didn't and now I do.

Player Piano said...

Yes, M. Tully has a great point: no one else is standing up for the non-religious, so we who are non-religious and want to change these attitudes likely will have to do it ourselves.

I know that I may offend, but unless people are offended, how will they learn to see how silly their offense is in the first place?

I think over time that we can educate liberal theists and others about us, but that we as non-religious people must first be responsible for increasing our awareness in society until others are willing to work with us in eliminating the common stereotypes.

Anonymous said...

(Follow up by D. Kempin)

Thank you for your replies.

You make some fair points. I would certainly concede with M. Tully that there is a high degree of hypocrisy and inconsistency in what is frequently spouted by the "Christian." I would even go further and say that many of the loudest talkers do not even understand the religion they claim to espouse.

(And kudos to your Roman history "skills" for knowing that Christians were accused of being atheists.)

I think it is also a fair point that those who are genuinely persuaded that they are correct would wish--even expect--that others would agree with them. I do not find the forum of persuasion and debate to be offensive at all. I agree that frankness is a compliment rather than an insult.

Anyway, I do not want to subvert the discussion on this post. Thank you for your cordial replies. Your insights have been helpful to me.

-D. Kempin

Reginald Selkirk said...

Drats! I missed the conference:
Creation conference coming to Calvary Chapel in Modesto
Feb. 1-2, 2009

M. Tully said...

D. Kempin,

Thank you for your gracious concession.

My question for you now is, the next time you encounter anti-Atheist bigotry, will you confront it?

Or, should I continue with my working assumption that "liberal Christian" is truly an oxymoron?

Anonymous said...

"The short answer is: Believers are being irrational."

wow what a refutation just shows the that atheist have to posess faith in their position...

I like how the ahtiest on this board point to snowflakes and tree growth as cases of chaos...hey you guys ever headr of calculus or vector analyst?? Prolly not...

Reginald Selkirk said...

I like how the ahtiest on this board point to snowflakes and tree growth as cases of chaos...hey you guys ever headr of calculus or vector analyst?? Prolly not...

Yes, I've heard of those. But I have to say that someone who has put on such a display of ignorance as you have in this thread has no business making unsubstantiated criticism of other people's education.

Deepak said...

Its highly impossible to make a believer believe that there is NO GOD despite a truckload of evidence. The reason is 'The Mind'.
What an athiest(like me) need is, an evidence of God. Let god cure all the world's suffering in a fraction of second if he is 'superpowerful', if not let him come and stand before me for a minute and talk to me and I am ready to fall in God's feet and beg. I believe I have all the dignity to see a God if I haven't done any sin.
...But if you take a believer, its true to the core that he is in no mood to accept proofs from science no matter what you give.
Their mind is already sealed with words of ignorance from a so called spiritual person. Most of these spiritual people are already rich from the money they take from these ignorant people. They spread ignorance in one place, take money and move to next place just like a virus. Some believers even find it hard to digest the fact that humans are made of flesh and not sci-fi soul waiting for heaven.

Now how could you expect a rapid cure for such ignorance?

Yes, its all a mind's thing, a believer is so much excited to believe that if they dont believe in God, they will be pushed into darkness after death. Even if they haven't done nothing wrong in their life, they will go to hell just for 'one reason',- not believing in God. Such ignorance have rapid cure

Deepak said...

Telling what God did in the Past can not be the cure for a leper who is there in the street begging for his entire life time.

Now, I need a straight honest answer from a hardcore believer? I dont want head-spinning words of belief.
During Tsunami what was god doing? Was he busy checking his email? Or busy preparing extra beds in heaven to accomodate the good souls died in tsunami?

Deepak said...

Are believers so ignorant? Or should I say, the believers are too innocent?
If God has visited earth in the past, then why not now? If you say that the world is so polluted with evil things happening that God is in no mood to come down to earth, or you might say God is thinking of an alternative, or God already has prepared another world for all 'believers'.. Or whatever, these are some I can imagine of how a spiritual person desperately tries to exploit the innocence of ignorant people.
Is there anyone who witnessed God's 'new' world? Or did God whisper it into a spiritual person's ear that this is how things are supposed to be in future, go and spread my message to this world? Both can not happen.

Brush aside everything, just imagine God showing his presence to this world for a minute. I bet all the evil things happening now will end there, terrorists will shit in their pants fearing of God, nobody will ever dare to do anything destructive. Hence if God proves that he is around, I only see good things to follow thereafter which is really a good thing to happen.
But God will never show up even to the hardcore believer's eyes. All you believers have is a spiritual person spraying words of imagination. Collect the words and fill it in your basket, go home and sleep peacefully thinking about the glorious things he said and with all your hopes burried deep under the basket.
You dont even take an attempt to know what is behind it, we athiest atleast attempt to figure out something. You people are helpless. Why helpless? Because you dont even cry out. You are all in deep sleep, a life long hibernation