Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dr. Dino gets 10 years for defrauding the American people

That young Earth creationist quack, the self-styled 'Dr. Dino', was sentenced yesterday to 10 years imprisonment. In addition, he is to pay restitution in the amount of $640,000, the prosecution's court costs ($7,078) and serve 3 years parole after release. When viewed against other similar crimes, such as Martha Stewart's insider trading gaffe, the sentence itself seems to be in line with the severity of the crime.

While not as spectacular as the actions of those fallen angels of the 80s, Swaggart, Roberts and Bakker, Kent Hovind is not without his own special charm: "If it's just money the IRS wants, there are thousands of people out there who will help pay the money they want so I can go back out there and preach," Hovind said.

He just doesn't get it. He was quite willing to reap the benefits that the state provides through taxation that he arbitrarily declared himself exempt from. In other words, he lived off everybody else like a parasite. Did anything change? Nope. He's still quite content to let everyone else pay for his indiscretions. Sentencing is not just about restitution; it's also about punishment for inappropriate actions relative to social norms.

The above quote suggests that he does not believe that he committed a crime. However, the actions of the Hovinds strongly suggest otherwise. His wife Jo was herself convicted of using various schemes to avoid triggering transactions requiring reporting to the IRS. She would visit the bank sometimes twice in a day to make withdrawals just shy of the $10,000 limit on transaction reporting. On the day of the IRS raid Kent withdrew $70,000. He must have realized that the jig was up and that he wasn't fooling anybody anymore. The raid resulted in finding $42,000 stashed in various locations of the house and several weapons! Are these the actions of someone that does not believe they are breaking the law? If he really believed he was following a higher calling, would the Hovinds go out of their way to avoid detection by the mere mortals of the IRS like sneaking thieves? A jury of 12 of his peers (I hope they were actually his betters. A jury of his peers might have come back with a verdict of kumquat.) didn't think so and raced to produce a verdict in a mere two and a half hours. That's barely time to read out the charges and vote on each one. In what I thought was an unusual step, Kent was held without bail till the sentencing as the judge was convinced he was a flight risk.

Michael Smith at the Pensacola New Journal writes: "The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that churches are not exempt from paying employment taxes, she (U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers) explained, and what happened was a result of Kent Hovind 'refusing to accept what the law is.'" It wouldn't actually matter if churches were totally exempt, since Hovind's claim of a ministry is arbitrary and he has never applied for special status to the IRS. The Creation Science Ministry is not even a non-profit organization and is therefor fully taxable just like any other business.

Religion allows believers to turn their backs on their fellow humans because they think they answer to a higher power. This makes possible the suspension of normal limitations on actions causing pain and suffering in others, or (in the case of Hovind) circumventing ethical boundaries. If he truly believed that he was doing God's work, what need did he have for money at all? Wouldn't God provide?

His son, Eric, is certainly in denial.
"My father is not a man who is in love with money. He's in love with God," son Eric Hovind said. "He is a man who loves this country and loves others." Okay, but explain the $42,000 lying around the house. Talk about putting equity into your home. Then explain the guns.

How is this man considered by anyone to be moral? This man is scum! I've already dealt with his abysmal form of Creation Science in a previous blog. But not only is his 'Science' a joke, he is very dodgy about where his so-called PhD comes from and in what field it relates to. Since he is well aware that his 'Hovind Theory' has been thoroughly debunked but continues to spout his drivel I think it's safe to say that he is a liar. Now he has been publicly shown to be a cheat. But will his followers see him as such? History suggests not...

And even after all of this the sheep will still follow. Some will even believe that he is being persecuted for his beliefs, but I think it's quite clear that his actions were criminal. This man is not only financially bankrupt, but morally bankrupt as well. When will his followers stop being mindless sheep, put that antiquated book down and start thinking for themselves like human beings?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Inanity that is Deepak Chopra Continues....

I read Deepak Chopra's latest blog entry and felt a blog coming on. I know you mean well, Deepak, but you really should stick to things you know and understand. I just don't know what those things are, and neither do you. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

"I remain fascinated by orthodox defenders of Darwinism, who believe that the success of a scientific theory proves its infallibility. As a passing note, I have never denied natural selection, but the holes in current evolutionary theory are glaring." Orthodox defenders of Darwinism? Is that like the Knights Templar? And Darwinism does not exist. It is Evolution. Does the success of a scientific theory prove its infallibility? In Science there is no such thing as infallible. When a theory describing a phenomenon fails, it is either changed to include the new data or discarded in favor of a new synthesis. No scientist ever dogmatically holds onto a theory just because he/she likes it. We leave that to religion. The success of Evolutionary Theory has been emense and thus does validate it. Since there have been no serious challenges to it, it remains. But as Einstein said, there will not be any ultimate theory of everything. Evolutionary Theory will not be supplanted by a new theory any more than Relativistic Theory replaced Newtonian Mechanics.

"Responders have criticized my example of honey bees that die when they sting. I am well aware that there are drones, workers, and a queen in each hive. But the fact that the workers are sterile doesn't refute the example but only strengthens it. How can a queen bee, who is responsible for laying all the eggs, possibly know whether some hatch with stingers that are fatal or not? How can her genes know? That they somehow do know is part of the credo of sociobiology. Let's say, however, that some hives survive with workers that die after they sting while others don't survive with workers that can sting multiple times (as bumblebees can)? There is no way to attribute the survival to this adaptation, and in addition, it's only common sense that workers that can sting multiple times are far better defenders than those that die immediately. This is an evolutionary conundrum and remains one despite Darwinian efforts to explain it." Not at all. The large number of workers means that bees that die because they lose their stingers (or for any other reason) do not deplete the hive population significantly. Indeed, the loss of the stinger provides increased protection value, continuing to work long after the initial sting itself. As for how the queen bee's genes know any of this, the answer is they don't. By this bizarre statement, I can only assume Deepak is trying to figure out why workers have stingers that detach, and queens don't. This is in fact related to the diet given the pupae, which changes the hormonal mix to differentiate each type. Natural selection has selected for bee colonies where the workers lose their sting for the aforementioned reason. The workers have no genetic interest in surviving, except to protect the queen. This is in fact why the queen bee has a stinger which does not. She uses the stinger to fend off rivals. A surviving queen bee which would die after using the stinger wouldn't be around to pass on the genes. This is just one example that Deepak demonstrates of the complete and utter lack of understanding of Evolutionary Theory.

"Darwinism has hit a serious obstacle in its attempt to explain adaptations in a more sophisticated way. Survival is a conscious act, and ignoring that fact in favor of materialism is a dead end." Survival is a conscious act? Since when? I would say that even in humans it is not conscious. We evolved with behavior which produces a desire to stay alive. Not to do so is not much of an evolutionary strategy, in my humble opinion. How is instinct conscious? "It's quite self-contradictory for current evolutionary biologists to speak of adaptations that benefit the genes of a species without elucidating how a gene can know anything about the outside world. How do the genes of a queen bee, for example, absorb the information about what's happening to worker bees without some resort of intelligence?" This gave me mental whiplash. The very act of asking such a question betrays Deepak's complete and total ignorance of Evolutionary Theory. The utter inanity of thinking that genes need to have knowledge of their environment makes my head explode. Does Deepak even grasp the basic concept of Natural Selection? It is the gene that is affected by selection pressures over generations of replication, not the gene changing in order to survive in a particular environment. There is no 'absorption of information'. Genes that cause an organism to have some advantage over its rivals tends to be passed on to the next generation. What Deepak is suggesting seems almost Lamarckian, a long defunct attempt at explaining Evolution.

"Moreover, crude notions of competition and survival of the fittest are grossly inadequate. The entire field of ecology is based on cooperation, symbiosis, and holistic forces that shape life on this planet." Should I even bother to comment on what is wrong here? I don't think he understands the concept of "survival of the fittest". To be fair, most people don't. His view seems to suggest that ecology is all warm and fuzzy, devoid of competition. I got news for you, Deepak. Bambi wasn't a documentary. And what the hell are holistic forces? Natural Selection is by far the most important shaper of gene propagation.

"The deeper questions are these:

--How does competition fit in with its opposite, cooperation?"
Competition and cooperation go hand in hand. Indeed, cooperation can enhance competition. If you equate cooperation with altruism, then you are misguided. Truly altruistic behavior is a myth. Birds flock for safety in numbers, where more eyes are looking out for danger, but this is hardly altruistic. Competition is occurring simultaneously with cooperation.

"--How can mutations really be random given that complex adaptations such as flight require multiple adaptations simultaneously?" Oh, my. Can you say 'Irreducible Complexity'? Sorry, Deepak, that was debunked long ago. The evolution of the wing has long been understood. Indeed, it is a prime example of convergent evolution. If it was so difficult, then this would not be the case. It is incorrect that multiple adaptations had to occur simultaneously. This would only be true if the wing were to simply pop into existence, which could not happen according to Evolutionary Theory.

"--How can we explain adaptations that don't benefit mating preferences? The honey bee is a perfect example. Worker bees take no part in mating, and it's ludicrous to think that drones prefer queens whose genes produce worker bees that die after they sting?" Another whiplash-producing statement. Unbelievable stupidity. There is no word in the English language, perhaps not in any language, to describe this. Queens do not produce offspring like we do. The form of the bee is strongly affected by diet, controlled by worker bees. The detachable sting conveyed an advantage to survival. THAT is what matters.

"--How can we explain adaptations that only come into effect after mating, such as the differing life spans of creatures after they breed? By what criteria, for example, does Nature choose for one insect to live ninety days instead of one day?" One might as well ask why lifespan of our species is increasing. As you might expect, it is due to Natural Selection. We are delaying childbirth to later on in life, thus increased longevity is selected for. (It's a common misconception that it is due to increased overall health. Medical advances have only had a small effect on our longevity.)

"--How can we explain the rise of consciousness out of unconscious molecules?" If you are suggesting that Science cannot explain consciousness because it has been unable to up to this point, then you are following the false dichotomy argument, Deepak. A bad argument. We only now have tools which allow us to explore the mind and thus is a field in its infancy. To explain consciousness in terms of spirituality is vacuous. If you cannot speak in scientific terms about a concept, you cannot speak intelligibly about it. There is no shame in the words "we don't know." Spiritualists make fools of themselves speaking of things like consciousness when they have not scientific data to fall back upon in support. You are no different, Deepak.

"Darwinians bluster that the answers to these mysteries already exist. This is far from true. I have debated Nobel laureates and other scientific notables on these issues." Bully for you. But you don't understand the basic concepts of what you were debating on, and I doubt you held up well against their arguments except in your own mind.

I'm not a big fan of debates on Evolution vs ID/Creation. Dawkins was told by Gould that he felt that it gave unnecessary and misplaced credibility to creationists just for showing up. That's one reason, but I have stronger ones. What is the outcome of debating this subject? Generally speaking the polarity is such that each side just hears what they want out of the debate. No minds are changed. And what does it mean to win a debate? Does that mean that the 'winning' side's version is truth? No. It just means the winner is a better debater. I've taken a side that I didn't actually agree with and kicked ass in a debate. It's not about the truth. So I don't find debates particularly useful.

Anyway, this is a man who's ideas have a significant following. But if his philosophy is built on such a weak and shaky foundation, I must conclude that everything in it is suspect and no one should pay Deepak Chopra any mind. He only strengthens my feeling that the equation below holds true:

spiritualist = flake.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Correlations between Fundie-ism, Education and acceptance of Evolution...

No surprises here. The acceptance of the reality of Evolution in the US increases with increasing level of education, and decreases with religiosity/right wingism (for lack of a better term) for the same education level.

Larry Moran has written an excellent blog on whether rejection of evolution results from a lack of understanding of it. There's more to it, I think, than what he wrote. His view is that indeed disbelief is born of a lack of understanding. I think this is especially true for the lowest education levels. It's much easier to envision a designer than understand the principles of Evolutionary Theory. Evolution is an advanced concept, to be sure. Creationism/ID is a much easier concept to grasp, and so it's easy to see that people that have not been exposed to the principles Evolutionary Theory and some, like Dumbski, couldn't understand them even if they were exposed. However, Creationism/ID glosses over so much that once you get over how good it sounds and start digging you realize how empty it is. For instance, Concept: the universe and its contents are so complex that it MUST have had a designer; Fatal flaw: If the universe is too complex to not have had a designer and the designer itself must be more complex, ergo the designer must have had its own even more complex designer, etc., reductio ad absurdum.

More interesting (to me) is the attenuation that religiosity/political viewpoint puts on the acceptance of Evolution. Religion has first crack at childrens' minds. This kind of indoctrination is child abuse, a form of mental rape. A child does not have the tools to make a choice in belief systems till much later in life. While watching the trailer for 'Jesus Camp' I got the same feeling as when watching documentaries on Nazi Germany and the Hitler Youth. The parallels are immediately apparent and just as vile. What this indoctrination does is cause students in Biology to build a barrier that serves to block understanding Evolutionary Theory. Thus, they are predisposed to reject it even before learning about it. Even when presented with the mountains of cladistic, molecular genetic and fossil evidences this belief that Evolution does not happen cannot be easily supplanted (I said they were intelligent, not smart). Religion really is a mind virus, a very virulent meme. The more intelligent people that disregard Evolutionary Theory usually do so from the point of view of the false dichotomy. They attack Evolution (with seriously flawed arguments) in order to discredit it, and therefore (in their minds) ID/Creationism must be correct. I see this incredibly foolish conclusion constantly on the net. The blithering IDiots at the Disco Institute are prime examples.

Speaking of them, Dembski writes: "But why should disbelieving evolution reflect a lack of understanding of it? Alternatively, does understanding evolution automatically force one to believe it? I remember speaking at the University of Toronto in 2002 when a biologist challenged me about how holding to ID renders one a nonscientist. I asked him if that disqualified Isaac Newton from being a scientist. His instant response was, “but he didn’t know about evolution.”" As usual, Dumbski (even when pointed in the right direction) gets lost. His antagonist's response was correct. Creationism was an early attempt at explaining our existence. Taken that way, it has shown itself to be a complete failure and the Scientific Method then demands that it be discarded. I'm with Larry on this: Dumbski is no Scientist. Unlike Newton, he has been shown the evidence and used religion like blinders to ignore it. None of his criticisms has ever been coherent, let alone valid. THAT removes his right to declare himself a Scientist.

Understanding evolution does NOT, as Dumbski puts it, force anyone to believe it any more than the lack of visibility of the lower part of a ship on the horizon forced the ancient Greeks to conclude that the Earth is round. Entering into explaining a phenomenon must be done with a clear mind devoid of prejudices and without caring where the evidence takes you. Darwin did exactly that. Newton most definitely would have understood Evolution and knew it for what it was: Truth.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

US: Science education backwater. Reason? Religion...

Sigh. This is utterly disheartening. The figure above shows the results of a poll conducted in a variety of countries on public attitude towards evolution. Secular Europe is obviously far more educated on the aspects of evolutionary theory. Look where the US is. Second worst only to Turkey. The US is probably the country that puts out the most science literature, yet it is a biological education backwater.

Speaking as a Canadian, just where is my country in this? I mean, Iceland, a puny little island country with a mere 250,000 citizens, gets on the list, while Canada, a couple of orders of magnitude a greater number, gets no respect.

What do the IDiots at the Disco Institute have to say about this? Bruce Chapman: "A better explanation for the high percentage of doubters of Darwinism in America may be that this country's citizens are famously independent and are not given to being rolled by an ideological elite in any field," Chapman said. "In particular, the growing doubts about Darwinism undoubtedly reflect growing doubts among scientists about Darwinian theory. Over 640 have now signed a public dissent and the number keeps growing."

That 640 probably contains morons like Kent Hovind. (I can't wait for the sentencing on the 19th. Not only is his Science laughable, his moral character is pretty suspect as well.)

'Famously independent'? Not sure about that. They certainly aren't very independent when it comes to religious belief. I mean, if you give yourself over unquestioningly to religious dogma, how independent can that be? Religious opponents to ToE parrot the same old tired, ineffective and discredited arguments as they always have. Hardly what I'd call independence. It was noted that "the evolution issue has been politicized and incorporated into the current partisan division in the United States in a manner never seen in Europe or Japan. In the second half of the 20th century, the conservative wing of the Republican Party has adopted creationism as a part of a platform designed to consolidate their support in southern and Midwestern states—the "red" states. In the 1990s, the state Republican platforms in seven states included explicit demands for the teaching of "creation science". There is no major political party in Europe or Japan that uses opposition to evolution as a part of its political platform." I find this infinitely more plausible.

Well, it's up to us scientists to set people straight. Evolution is a FACT as undeniable as gravity, well known before Darwin's time. What is in dispute is the theory explaining it, mainly in its details. Darwin essentially got it right where previous attempts at an explanation were incorrect.

I recently read at Pharyngula about Doug Kauffman's objections to evolution. You know, the usual fundie arguments that ToE is bad Science because it is unproveable (no Science is, in point of fact, proveable); that ToE is dying (quite the opposite- it's the only game in town in Biology); Intelligent Design is a good alternative to ToE (without IDiots ever having established any part of it with evidence); ignoring key evidences in support of ToE such as homologies between similar species, that pretty much every fossil ever found is a transitional form (and the usual complaint is where are the transitional forms between the transitional forms?), or even the very existence of fossils; trying to apply the second law of thermodynamics in a way which is totally inapplicable (remember, the Earth is powered by the sun. The second law clearly states that it applies only to systems which are closed....). The usual baloney. I guess we can safely place this guy in the red zone in the figure.

For those that remain unconvinced that religion is responsible for the results of this survey, "individuals who hold a strong belief in a personal God and who pray frequently were significantly less likely to view evolution as probably or definitely true than adults with less conservative religious views." It's difficult to take criticism of ToE seriously from a society where "only a third of American adults agree that more than half of human genes are identical to those of mice and only 38% of adults recognize that humans have more than half of their genes in common with chimpanzees. In other studies, fewer than half of American adults can provide a minimal definition of DNA." This is a sad state of affairs.

But creationism is provable, right? It's in the BIBLE! Therefor it must be true!

Oh bother. This is bad logic, yet I hear it all the time. No one has yet shown that the Babble has a grain of truth to it. And assuming the Babble is Gawd's word because the Babble says so is such a ridiculous tautology... It pains me to think of the waste religions have caused our whole species. Yes, they had there place long ago. It was a key factor enabling social and cultural evolution. It's time to replace them. Our social and cultural abilities were evolved to deal with 150 or so individuals, but watching CNN shows that it no longer is capable of maintaining peace in a global or even local setting.

For some things, we might be able to attach a dollar figure to the wastage of religion, but for many other things we can not. How does one attach a value to the waste of a life living a lie? Giving someone false hope of a better life than their current one after their death, when no one has established the existence of such a thing? Murder in the name of the Gawd, be it in the guise of the Inquisition or blowing up civilians in a terrorist attack. It boggles the mind.

But I digress. The main point is that the universe and the way it works doesn't care about any of us, or how we think it should work. It is not a popularity contest. It either is or is not in this universe, and it is up to us to explain the existence of phenomena. That is the idea behind Science. We go where the evidence takes us, no matter how much or how little we like it. And please, no comments that include 'Goddidit' without telling me exactly HOW Gawd did it. There is certainly no Science in creationism, or its more recent impostor 'intelligent design'. It's like MC Hawking says: "What we need more of is Science!"

Maybe I'll move to Iceland.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

The Atheist Delusion

This guy, Edward Current, does some very good parodies of fundamentalist Xian thinking. You have to watch them a couple of times to be sure that they are parodies. Rather cutting, aren't they?

The first one is available is called The Atheist Delusion, and its sequel is The Atheist Delusion 2: Deluded Mailbag. I wonder who the anonymous questioner is in the sequel? These are uncanny representations that remind me of that (now infamous) idiotic video from the Way of the Master on how to talk to atheists. If there is anything I learned from Monty Python it's how to protect myself against a man attacking me with a banana....

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

10 Myths About Atheists

Sam Harris has put online his top 10 list of atheism myths.

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless. I've always believed that life has the meaning that the owner attaches to it. Think about it. You have a clean slate to do whatever you want to make your life meaningful! The only problem is finding amongst the myriads of possibilities the one you want. How can anyone not find this absolutely wonderful?
2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history. My favorite is the Holocaust. Hitler was a practicing Roman Catholic and stated in Mein Kampf and in speeches that he was doing God's work. Doesn't sound much like an atheist to me. As Harris points out, the truly despicable regimes of Pol Pot and Stalin were dogmatic of their own accord. Extremism and fundamentalism have proven over and over again how truly terrible they are, whether or not it is religious in nature.
3) Atheism is dogmatic. A nonsequitor. We simply lack any belief in a deity. As Stephen Henry Roberts said (and I've heard Richard Dawkins reiterate): “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance. As Harris points out, this is usually thrown up as an attack on evolution. Unfortunately, there is nothing random about evolution at all, and just shows the total ignorance of the attacker on the subject.
5) Atheism has no connection to science. Unlikely, as 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences are agnostic/atheist, while the same proportion of the general population is theistic. This says volumes.
6) Atheists are arrogant. No more so than theists. It just depends on the viewpoint. Me, I like to think of myself as more "adamant" than "arrogant"...
7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience. If by spiritual experience you mean a religious one, then this is actually true for me. But if you mean having an epiphany about something amazing, then all of us, religious or not, have experienced this.
8) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding. If anything, it is religious dogma which limits our understanding. It single-handedly stalled advancement in all aspects of society, not just scientific, in the dark ages. It took a wresting of control from theocratic institutions to start things moving again, a fact which gives me hope that theistic institutions can not bottle the human spirit indefinitely, try as they might! Indeed, it has always been Science that has been in the vanguard of human understanding, not religion.
9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society. Another nonsequitor. How can systematically teaching people to unquestioningly live a lie be at all beneficial? To behave in certain manners to appease god and obtain the love of a deity out of fear is good? Sounds rather totalitarian to me.
10) Atheism provides no basis for morality. True, in a sense. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in the supernatural. Fortunately, there is no need for atheism to provide morality. It's simply something that evolved as part our species' group survival strategy. I find it ironic that when a theist asks where do atheists get their morals from, our answer is the same place the theist does. Does anyone really believe that I will not think that harming others is bad just because I don't worship a dusty old book of dubious origins? Heck, that book and others of similar ilk have been responsible for a immeasurable harm on their own. Where do you think we get the term 'witch hunt' from? My surprise has been that theists have not argued that it was god that instilled morality into each and every one of us. My only conclusion after giving it much thought is that this would be too gnostic a belief. You don't collect much money in the coffers when people realize they don't need to show up every Sunday morning to worship. Their whole industry would shut down!

Yet we are still haunted by these beliefs born of ignorance. I see it all the time on the web. It is time we atheists banded together into a real lobby group and change perceptions. Maybe we can finally politically "herd the cats" into having one voice. I'm tired of sitting on my hands and allowing right wing conservative religious groups having more than their say and we remain silent. Heck, even those loons at the Westbro Baptist Church get more coverage. Enough is enough!

Monday, January 1, 2007

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. Or God.

I received a comment on one of two (but not the last) blogs that I've written about Kent Hovind, PhDuh. I feel compelled to respond to it in more than just a return comment because I think this person is representative of a fundamentalist view of atheism and is deserving of a proper response. I mean no disrespect by any of this, but some things must be addressed because we atheists seem to be the most misunderstood group on the planet. This person is exactly the type that I wish to read my blog and hopefully get something from it.

Kent Hovind opened the door to criticism of the beliefs he espouses simply by making them public. His intent is not only to make you believe evolution is a myth, even though the overwhelming evidence makes it a fact, but to win you over to religion. Just another reason to examine his ideology. My initial intent with the blog on him was to critically examine his views in the debate that I dissected, but it soon turned out that I could no longer take his inanity. His recent legal problems, while not related to his personal beliefs per se, do in fact go towards who he is. I have a rule: I respect others' right to beliefs, but I do not have to respect the beliefs others hold when such beliefs are demonstrably wrong and harmful. It is the courage of people such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins that have moved me to come forward and make my voice heard. I save my vitriol for those that deserve it: the Bill O'Reillys, Ann Coulters and Kent Hovinds of this world.

Am1specialkitty wrote:
Maybe this man doesn't have a degree. But his speech is not his own. History is documented for that time period. Only the misguided try to discard it. Why are you so scared of the truth. What have you done that you feel you can't be forgiven for. Why must you have so much hate for christians that you feel the need to attack them.

My sympathy is with you. For if you are right and I am wrong you lose nothing, but if I am right and there is a God, you lose everything. And for that I pray for you, that one day you find faith. Faith isn't something that can be documented. Faith is something that's not touchable. Faith is simply belief in what you know inside to be true and no longer deny.
Maybe this man doesn't have a degree. He does, but it is not from an accredited university. This makes his PhD null and void, so I guess I don't disagree with this. But he is certainly insecure about it.

But his speech is not his own.
Yes, indeed much of it is. The creation story may not be his own, but trying to shoehorn dinosaurs into this mythology is very much his own idea. And not a good one. It shows the desperation and the lengths people will go to to try to preserve their beliefs, no matter how much evidence to the contrary is presented to them.

History is documented for that period.
Only the misguided try to discard it. Indeed it is. The Romans were almost obsessive in their record keeping. Curious that there is no mention of a miracle-working carpenter in any contemporary literature. If you are thinking of the gospels as your documentation, forget it. It is well-documented that none of the gospels was written during Jesus' life, nor are their authorship known. How could the gospels be at all accurate after 40 years of word-of-mouth?

Why are you so scared of the truth?
I am a man of Science and am thus interested in nothing but the truth. I do not blindly accept anything, however. I've found that common sense often enough turns out to be common nonsense. If you take everything at face value you get what you deserve in the end. So-called creation science is a good example. Proponents assume the Genesis story as truth without question, and then try to find evidence in support of it. See anything wrong here? If you blindly believe in the creation mythology, what need do you have for evidence? It seems to me that it is creationists that are afraid of the truth. The tendency to ignore all other evidence in favor of tidbits supporting the creation legend is not scientific in the least. Especially when those tidbits are generally twisted by omitting important adjunct information. One of Hovind's beliefs is that dragon legends are evidence for dinosaurs living amongst H. sapiens. He also believes (in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary) that T. rex was a herbivore (this allows T. rex to be on the ark without making a meal of Noah). It seems to me, however, that dragons had a fondness for princess meat. So, he picks and chooses the parts he likes, ignoring all else. This is just sad. He has no interest in looking for the truth at all. I'm sure he believes the creation story, but if he truly believes it to be true, then what does he fear from starting ab initio without assuming any end point? If Genesis is true, all evidence (not just the ones he picks) will point to it as being truth no matter your starting point.

What have you done that you feel you can't be forgiven for. Nothing. I actually have a clear conscience. Why do Xians always feel that atheists deny the existence of god out of guilt and fear of punishment for some terrible act? Why this assumed immorality of atheists? This is actually downright insulting, even in ignorance. You know nothing about me, yet you assume I must be some sort of axe murderer. Sorry to disappoint you, but I will put my sense of ethics and morality, and indeed my whole life, up for comparison with any Xian's.

This is so similar to a point that Hovind attempted to put forward that I have to discuss this further. Why do Xians (not all, certainly, but often enough to exasperate me) think that atheists are denying the existence of something that to them is so obvious, there must be some nefarious reason? They say, "Look around you! How could this all have just come into being?" But instead of trying to answer that very question, some supernatural being is generated to explain it. It is the very fact that some people weren't satisfied with the accepted answers obtained through sheer laziness and apathy, and began to search for real answers that many like me have come to realize that there was never a need to have created a deity in the first place. This planet's inhabitants would be much happier without religion to create intergroup violence.

Why must you have so much hate for christians that you feel the need to attack them. I have absolutely no hate for Xians. None. I can see that some would think that Xians are my target. It is baseless belief that I fight against. I find it interesting that religious people are allowed to proselytize and convert others to their beliefs, but when an atheist does it he/she is condemned. People of all sorts of faiths put aside their differences and attack free thinkers like Richard Dawkins. Why are religion and religious beliefs held unaccountable? What makes them sacrosanct? We have this social taboo that religion is not to be touched. That changes now. When inappropriate beliefs affect myself and others I will challenge them with vigor. So why do I not think that religion is harmless? Watch CNN. America has become a theocracy in all but name. This endangers everyone's freedoms. The Founding Fathers would be appalled at what is happening south of the Great White North.

My sympathy is with you. For if you are right and I am wrong you lose nothing, but if I am right and there is a God, you lose everything. Ah, Pascal's Wager. You realize that this is perhaps the most discredited argument of the religious apologist? Aside from the fact that you have only a small chance of having selected the right god if god indeed exists, you do indeed have much to lose if you are wrong. You have wasted the whole of the one life you had to live on a lie. If I'm wrong I can hold my head high when I meet god and say to him, in the words of Betrand Russell, "Not enough evidence!"

And for that I pray for you, that one day you find faith. I know you mean well, but having someone pray for me is insulting. I would prefer that you do something constructive with your time. Prayer has indeed been shown to have no effect at all, aside from possible psychological factors. It is much better to have said that you would hold me in your thoughts, or something along that line. I can respect that. I think about friends and family all the time, and I hold hopes for their happiness and well-being in my mind. That's just caring. I think you meant that, but you were being totally (probably unintentionally) insensitive to the beliefs I hold, and hold because of evidence.

Faith isn't something that can be documented. Faith is something that's not touchable. Faith is simply belief in what you know inside to be true and no longer deny. Faith is asking a friend for a favor and believing they will carry it out because they have always been there for you before. Faith is believing that Science will continue to find answers to the questions rightly important to our species, such as where did we come from, is there anybody else out there, how did the universe come into being? I have more faith than you can know. Believing in something devoid of any supporting evidence and all evidence pointing to the contrary is not faith, however. It is BLIND FAITH. Blind faith is not something to be admired or congratulated. Blind faith is like a someone falling from a cliff desperately grasping at the lone blade of grasp to avoid their doom. It is blind faith that has lead to witch hunts, burning of heretics and suicide bombers.

I do have one question: why do you believe what you believe? Everyone should answer this question for themselves. I would really like an answer. And not one like "Because it's in the bible." That answers nothing and creates more questions. I mean, really dig deep down to understand why it is we believe what we believe. The answers are far more difficult to express than you might think. If your faith can survive that, I'll have a lot more respect for it.