Jul 152017
 

To me, “faith” is neither good nor bad, though it *tends* towards the latter. Especially “unexamined faith,” or faith based not on facts but feels. “Faith in science” I am generally good with, because science is a process that has repeatedly proven itself to be a reliable way to understand, utilize and, most importantly, predict the real world. “Faith in Supernatural Entity X” is something I’m less understanding of because history has shown that  that’s a *terrible* way to get a handle on the future. And if some such faith or other actually works as a dandy way to predict the afterlife… well, the data on that is wholly lacking.

With that, a dandy way to examines ones faith is to ask “what sort of thing could conceivably occur that would convince me that my faith is wrong?” For people who believe there are no gods, it’s of course quite conceivable that if there *was* a god, that god could do something that would prove that gods existence. Of course, “god” is a pretty vague descriptor, covering anything from “superpowered human-like critter from ancient myth or old Star Trek,” on up to “creator of the universe.” Some people claim that there is no such demonstration that could prove the existence of an all-powerful universe-creating god, because anything that such a god might choose to do could conceivably be done by sufficiently advanced, yet non-god, aliens who just want to screw with us. However, I can think of two demonstrations that would be hard to argue away. And appropriately, both come from science fiction. The first was described in Carl Sagan’s “Contact:” buried deep within constants like pi are undeniable messages. Pi can’t, so far as I’m aware, be tinkered with; if there’s a message in it, it could only have been put there by an intelligent agent that created the universal constants. This is close enough to “a god” for engineering purposes, though it of course does not nail down the specifics of that god finely enough to decide if I should avoid shellfish and mixing cotton and polyester.

The second example was somewhat similar. As eventually described in the underrated “Stargate: Universe” series, fifty million years ago an incredibly advanced alien race discovered that there was an intelligent message embedded within the cosmic background radiation. The message was fragmentary, so in order to collect the whole thing they needed to send out an automated starship to the far end of the universe, apparently collecting data all along the way. A message in the CBR, especially if detected across billions of lightyears, would also be a good sign of an intelligent universe-creator.

If either of these notions were borne out, it would be difficult for an honest atheist or agnostic to claim that there was no universe-creator. Of course, the further nature of that creator, including whether of not it gave a rats ass about critters like us, would remain unknown, unless that message was *really* detailed.

But on the opposite end of the scale: assuming you have some religious belief or other, what sort of event would, if it were to occur, cause you to go, “whelp, guess I was wrong.” If you were a Muslim and the Ka’aba was successfully nuked into vapor, would that do it? If you’re a Catholic and R’lyeh rose from the depths, Cthulhu took over the world and Deep Ones swarmed up out of the sea and turned the Vatican into a spawning ground… would that do it? If you’re an evangelical and Satan shows up, tangles with the second coming of Jesus and the angels and wins, takes over the world and turns out to be not such a bad feller, would that do it? If you’re a Mormon and letters were dug out of the LDS Church archive that are verified as having been written by Joseph Smith back in the day, where he tells a pen pal that he was creating a new religion as a way to make money and nail some hot chicks, would that do it? If you’re Jewish and all of a sudden the old Egyptian gods show up en masse, take a look around and say “we were only gone 4,500 years, and look what you’ve done to the place” and promptly re-order the world to their liking, would that do it?

History has provided billions of examples of people who have lost their faith for reasons *far* less spectacular than the rise of ancient alien chaos gods or the discovery of messages in universal constants. Generally those de-faithing incidents arise from unplanned-for exterior yet deeply personal events… the loss of a loved one, a trusted priest or religious hierarchy turning out to be scumbags, discovery that a long-held belief about some historical or scientific fact is just plain dead wrong, that sort of thing. These are hard to plan for. But I think it’s always worthwhile to put one’s own faith to the question. The scientific method involves you coming up with an explanation you like…. and then YOU go about trying to prove it wrong. You design a series of experiments with the goal of finding the flaws. But to do that, you need to have some idea of what would prove your scientific hypothesis wrong.

So: what would prove your religious hypothesis wrong?

 Posted by at 12:17 am
Jul 082017
 

No matter how mind-snappingly stupid an idea or a movement is, no matter how objectively and *obviously* flawed its basic premise is… there will be people who cling to it forever. Observe:

These Coloradans say Earth is flat. And gravity’s a hoax. Now, they’re being persecuted.

The Flat Earth movement is growing in Colorado, thanks to technology and skepticism about science

Oy.

There’s no point in me rehashing the history and ideas behind the flat Earthers, we’ve heard it all before and it remains an infuriatingly awful conspiracy theory. What’s of interest is that as scientific data proving the non-flat nature of the Earth continues to pile up, more people seem to be signing on. Why?  Well… I think one quote from the article nails the cause:

“They want you to think you’re insignificant, a speck on the earth, a cosmic mistake,” Sargent says. “The flat earth says you are special, we are special, there is a creator, this isn’t some accident.”

Here’s the thing: you *ARE* insignificant. And I don’t even mean on the cosmic scale. Take *any* random human, from you, dear blog reader, to your most cherished loved one, your workplace nemesis, your best friend, your neighbor, whoever. Now, assume that that human has a perfectly normal heart attack and dies tomorrow. Will people care? Sure, probably. But how many? For virtually all the seven billion+ people, that one persons passing will be completely un-noticed. It would be surprising if the news goes beyond an obituary in the back of the local paper. And in a hundred years, that perfectly average human will have been *entirely* forgotten by living humans, remembered solely by unread words on a stone in a cemetery and in unread old databases.

Yeah, you’re insignificant. You’re a speck on the Earth, a cosmic mistake.

But you’re one insignificant speck among seven billion others. If you work at it, aren’t a jerk and behave rationally and intelligently, you might help be a part of turning this mess of specks into something meaningful on a cosmic scale. *YOU* won’t live to see it, but so what? If you live well, you might enjoy your brief life and have some satisfaction that you did something useful.

Or… you could decide to live delusionally and just decide that you are more important than you really are. It might make you feel special to think that the universe was set up just for your piddly ass, but it won’t mean that you really are special. In the end, you will not only die and be forgotten, like everyone else, you will play no useful or meaningful role in advancing mankind.

Oh, and headline writer? Being mocked is not “persecution.”

 Posted by at 3:46 pm
Jun 282017
 

On the one hand, destroying government property = bad. But on the other hand, if that property is manifestly unconstitutional… Hmmmm.  I guess I’d rate this about like someone plowing through an illegal barricade blocking them from getting around on their own property.

Arkansas’ Ten Commandments Monument Lasted Less Than 24 Hours

Interestingly… I bet that a whole lot of the people who are outraged by this act of destruction would celebrate the destruction of an atheist or Satanist monument plopped right next to the Ten Commandments.

 Posted by at 5:31 pm
Jun 172017
 

Step one: be a Swedish “expert on multiculturalism and Islamophobia.”

Step two: collect substantial sums from the Swedish government in the form of welfare payments

Step three: Convert to islam

Step four: Move your entire family to Syria to fight with ISIS

Step five: call for terrorist attacks against civilians within Sweden

Step six…?

Step seven: blame violence on Trump supporters and right-wing talk radio rhetoric, I suppose…

 Posted by at 2:06 pm
Jun 102017
 

So, some scientists announced that some almost-modern human skeletal remains were found in Morocco. What made it newsworthy was that these remains were abut 300,000 years old… 150,000 years older than any modern humans. Neat, huh?

Well, to some folks, finding out that human evolution is more complex and interesting than previously understood means that it didn’t actually happen:

Stop the Presses! Human Evolution Falsified!

Give it a read. It is… remarkable. It reads like the sort of thing someone would write if they were trying to spoof creationists. The icing on the crazycake is the anger the writer expresses at the “hoax” of Darwininan evolution.

 Posted by at 3:02 am
Jun 032017
 

Yet no confirmation, might have just been an accident. But it sure sounds familiar…

London police report ‘incident’ on London Bridge

Of course, accidents usually don’t involve stabbings. But you know, Europeans are a funny lot…

PANIC AT LONDON BRIDGE

London Bridge chaos as ‘several people mown down’ by van sparking station evacuation and armed cop response

Eye witnesses report that victims were receiving CPR after being ‘stabbed’

 


 

 Posted by at 4:07 pm
May 282017
 

What’s the most popular boys name in the Muslim world? “Mohammad,” or some spelling variation thereof. What’s a real popular name in the Spanish speaking world? “Jesus.” What’s *not* a popular name in the Anglosphere? “Jesus.” This has always kinda surprised me. Naming kids after revered characters is quite common, yet in the English speaking world naming your kid after the primary religious figure is considered inpoor taste. That said… “Joshua” is popular enough, won’t get you a second glance. Yet “Joshua” is the Anglicized version of the Latin name “Iesous,” which is a Greekified version of the Hebrew name “Yeshua,” what Jesus would have been called by the Hebrews of that time and place.  Similarly, Mathew, Mark, John, Paul, Ringo, Steven, Luke, Han, Adam, Mary, David, Debby, Abigail, Peter, Joseph and a number of other distinctly Biblical names are now quite popular.

Why blather forth about this? Because I laughed my face off a few days at WalMart. Wandering about, minding my own business, I passed by a common enough WalMart trope: a mother yelling at her oblivious, misbehaving horrible little brat. You learn to tune such things out. But something penetrated the wall and got my attention: the mother, in yelling at her child, kept calling him “Messiah.” Now maybe it’s “Massiya” or some other oddball spelling, but the pronunciation was the same. And it seems to me that if “Jesus” is considered poor form, surely “Messiah” should be too.

Ponderable: if “Mohammad” is popular in the Islamic world, how about naming your kid “Allah” or “Mahdi?” Surely that would result in nothing but praise and instant puppies.

 Posted by at 1:17 pm