Morris on my Mind, and Not the Saved by the Bell One…

Once again we are visited by our good friend David Goza who lights our way regularly from the dark pits of YouTube

A weekend of collecting, sorting and cleaning Ordovician-Period marine fossils from the Arbuckle Mountains has got me thinking once again about one of the strangest beliefs held by fundamentalist Christians: that about 4,400 or so years ago, the deity who had created the universe a couple of millennia earlier got all pissed off and wiped out almost everything in a global flood. I suppose that would have been a good enough belief for someone living in the Middle Ages, but its prestige has been completely undercut by the science of geology, beginning with its birth in the late 17th century. By around the middle of the 19th century, the only people who still took the Noahic Flood seriously were circuit-riding evangelists and the crowds of superstitious, snake-handling bumpkins who followed them. In most cases, their backwardness can clearly be attributed to the lack of general education.

 

During the second half of the 19th century, public education began to rectify some of the illiteracy and ignorance that had characterized the frontier population at large; this program went into full swing after the Civil War and the U.S. gradually began to show signs of a more general secular awakening. That awakening looked frightening to many people (not least to the preachers whose incomes were thereby threatened), and it was out of that fear that fundamentalism was born late in that century.

 

Unlike the frontier revivalism that characterized much of the U.S. earlier in the 19th century, fundamentalism was in some respects a self-consciously “modern” movement. It was born out of a psychological conflict: the wish to enjoy the fruits of modernity (making necessary a kind of lip-service to the sciences that made those benisons possible) while swearing allegiance to the literal truth of the Bible – one of the strangest notions that’s ever been hatched by the unquiet mind of man. Since the findings of science were obviously at odds with biblical cosmology and history, fundamentalists were at pains to debunk those findings.
Continue reading “Morris on my Mind, and Not the Saved by the Bell One…”

From the Bones of the Past We Can Find Purpose in the Future

David Goza stops by to lay down the smack.

This one’s for Jonny B., who’s been on my mind.

A visit to the Museum of Osteology can precipitate quite a train of thought, provided one is open to that pleasure. I’m fortunate to live a mere 20 miles away, and pay it a visit now and then. I always spend a good deal of time tracing limbed vertebrate evolution through various ancient and modern skeletons on display, admiring especially the universal template shared by amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals –a template that begins with a shoulder or hip, then includes one long bone, then an elbow or knee, then two bones, then a wrist or ankle, then lots of bones, then digits (which have become fused in quite a few cases, in the wings of birds and the hooves of ruminants).Yesterday I gazed upon skulls and skeletons of our vertebrate kin, remote both in time and in degree of cousinhood, and a sense of continuity, of being embedded in an everlasting flow of events simply took hold of me. It was a transcendent experience that has great staying power. I’m moved to share some of this with you, even while realizing that I can’t possibly capture it in words.

 

It was gazing into the empty eye-sockets of Australopithecus africanus, of Homo habilis, of Homo erectus, of Homo heidelbergensis, of Homo neanderthalensis, that unleashed a flood of reflection on “selfhood.” Was that sense of identity as strong in some of those ancestors and cousins I just named as it is in us? Does an elephant have a sense of self? Does a dolphin?

See the Original Post Here
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Dreaming of Darwin: Fundamentalist Night Terrors

Some of the great scientific discoveries have been syntheses that emerged more or less organically from the systematic crunching of a compendium of data accumulated over time. Plate tectonics furnishes an illustrative example: the Grand Unified Theory of Geology was made possible by a great many observations made over the course of a couple of centuries, some of them serendipitous (e.g. the discovery of deep-ocean trenches and mid-ocean ranges during the submarine era). Put enough data like that in a room with enough smart people and a really big idea is sooner or later going to take shape, in a manner that kind of resembles abiogenesis.

 

Others have been leaps of pure intuition so striking as to seem truly original. One of them is Darwin’s theory of evolution. I wish I could have seen the look on his face when the idea of speciation driven by natural selection occurred to him. That’s got to have been one of the greatest OMG moments in history. It must damn dear have stopped his heart: imagine having a single insight that explains everything you’re interested in! He must immediately have recognized how revolutionary an idea that was, and how much resistance and rancor it would incur. No wonder he sat on the idea for two decades before going to press with it – and even then, only out of concern of having his thunder stolen.
Continue reading “Dreaming of Darwin: Fundamentalist Night Terrors”

Letter from the Editor: I’m Just Tired

As the title says, I’m just tired, exhausted, worn down, exasperated… Does anyone else feel it?

 

Wait, let me elaborate before you sigh and cast your weary gaze to the back button, expecting this to be nothing but a series of complaints from a millennial who actually has to work for his money. You would be quite wrong, of course, as I rarely give people exactly what they expect.

 

As an activist, blogger, podcast host, engineer, homeowner, small business owner, husband, responsible pet owner, and soon to be father of a tiny human female I accept the weariness this will dispel. I understand that life can be filled with siestas and 40 hour cog in the machine workweeks if one can willingly submit. I understand all of these things but that is not the reason for my fatigue, it is the repetition.

 

obama-nazi-communist-muslim

Repetition in argumentation, repetition in political idiocy, repetition in online bigotry, repetition in financial irresponsibility, repetition of traditional oppression, and the list goes on and on…

 

I am so tired of the same arguments from the right wing arch conservatives: gay marriage will destroy all moral structure ending in malicious bestiality, deregulation of the economy will create more jobs not slave wages and serfdom, tax breaks-school funding / social programming cuts will force the poor to actually work, and Obama is a Muslim Nazi.

 

I am so tired of reading stories of political leaders announcing their intentions to take big money out of politics when we can see the list of their campaign contributors are the top wall street mega corporations. I am tired of politicians charged with protecting the American people putting “Freedom”, “Patriot”, or “Religious Freedom” at the beginning of some of the most subversive legislation to ever attack our basic human rights. And, I am tired of a two party system that uses unethical financial bullying to prevent decent discourse and the diversity of the people from being represented in our “Democratic Republic” election cycles.
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A Couple of Hellbound Apostates Visit the Wichita Mountains

If you were expecting or even – God forbid – hoping for another rant, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news: I think I need to give it a rest for a while. I’ll say only this before taking my leave of that somewhat continuous, reiterative and baleful project: because of the way fundamentalist religious dogma with all its patriarchal connotations warped the members of my family for generations, I’m genuinely sorry I was born into that family, and somewhat resentful as well. That’s a pretty heavy thing to say, ain’t it? I have always tried to treat my son in such a way that he won’t feel about his father the way I feel about mine. Some of you who read this know full well what I mean because that’s the way you feel – and chances are, religious dogma played a role in it. Those of you who can’t imagine what it must be like to feel that way, also don’t know how lucky you are to have dodged such a bullet by a fortuitous accident of birth.

 

Now, on to brighter things. On Friday, I met my friend Nicole King (whose beautiful, thought-provoking and touching essays you’ve probably encountered on this blog) for a long-overdue visit to the Wichita Mountains in southwest Oklahoma. The Wichitas are a fascinating igneous province whose history is quite unlike that of any other mountain range known to me. It’s a series of granite outcrops that trend roughly east-west for some sixty miles from near Lawton to a bit beyond the appropriately-named town of Granite. They aren’t large as mountains go: the maximum topographical relief is probably no more than 1700 feet or so. On approaching them, one is immediately struck by the fact that there are no foothills: the massifs simply rise directly out of the surrounding plains. This is, to say the least, unusual, and there is of course a good reason for it, which I’ll get to eventually. (One will not discover that reason by reading the Holy Bible.)

 

After lunch at the celebrated restaurant in Meers – a charming establishment that occupies a ramshackle collage of old mining structures and serves up wonderful food and delicious locally-brewed beer in 22-ounce bottles – we headed up into the mountains to enjoy that great proliferation of wildflowers that has followed in the wake of unprecedented flooding in this geologically-fascinating region. The three hours we spent kicking around up there afforded a golden opportunity to revisit some of the unusual features of one of my favorite places on Earth.

 

The granite of the Wichitas has been dated to early in the Cambrian Period, about 524 MYA give or take 1.2 million either direction. That’s a very good date, established and corroborated by a number of radiometric “clocks” – various minerals (especially zircons) contained within the granite that incorporated radioactive isotopes into their structure at the time the magma chamber that produced that granite was slowly cooling under miles of overburden.
Continue reading “A Couple of Hellbound Apostates Visit the Wichita Mountains”

Science, Evidence, and Faith

As I connect with other Atheists, I have noticed that many base their non-belief on science or a lack of evidence that God exists.

 

Does one need to state that there is no scientific evidence to justify not believing in God? To quote many climate deniers, “I’m no scientist.” I also believe that science is not necessarily a requisite of Atheism.
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The Power of Touch, the Immediacy of Presence

For more from David, click HERE

“Life is too sweet and too short to express our affection with just our thumbs. Touch is meant for more than a keyboard.” – Kristin Armstrong

Lamenting the loss of real relationships in light of the focus on social media and technology has become so commonplace, it’s reached that vaunted realm of yesteryear wisdom, a symbol of generational differences rather than a legitimate critique of modern behavior. Such a cultural change is not without fallout, however, as human practices taken for granted are now puzzled about. Living in a world in which “the stranger” has become synonymous with all that is perilous to children and free society, we focus less on how touch can be good or bad and more on avoiding it altogether.

How often is touch fully considered? Attempt keeping a small journal entry, making a mark each and every time an object or a person is touched, no matter how slight. Then start keeping track of personal mood. It’s practically a guarantee of human psychology that the more touch one participates in, however casual it may be and in so long as it isn’t negative, the more positive one’s mood will be. Psychology Today recently did an article on the benefits of human touch, coming up with a list connected with various research, notably that done by Dacher Keltner.

Benefits of human touch:

1. Decreased violence

2. Greater trust between individuals

3. Economic gain

4. Decreased disease and stronger immune system

5. Stronger team dynamics

6. More non-sexual emotional intimacy

7. Greater learning engagement

8. Overall well-being
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The Lottery of Life: Beating the Odds without God

© Religion Erased

A lottery winner of the standard six ball setup wins against the odds of one in 14,000,000. A last minute decision to play followed by the knowledge that your numbers beat every other ticket in the nation is rather overwhelming.

 

I would imagine…

 

More often than not winners thank God. Rightly so? Looking at the above stat it isn’t hard to feel a certain priveledge has been granted. When something out of the ordinary impacts our lives we can’t help but evaluate the incredible odds against us that we seemingly defied.

 

Have you ever survived a plane hitting your taxi?

 

The saying goes, if it is too good to be true, it probably is. 
Continue reading “The Lottery of Life: Beating the Odds without God”

Let’s Talk about Snakes!

Gather ‘round, young creationist True Believers™: time for a little herpetology lesson from the Blessed Old Leather-Bound Bible!

 

Genesis 3 begins with a description of a talking animal – one of two such wonders found in God’s Word:

 

//Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”//

 

There follows the story of “the Fall.” Later, when the blame game is being played:

 

The woman said, “The serpent tricked me and I ate.” The LORD God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,

cursed are you among all animals

and among all wild creatures;

upon your belly you shall go,

and dust you shall eat

all the days of your life.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers;

he will strike your head,

and you will strike his heel.”

 

That’s all we hear of this wondrous eloquent reptile in the Bible, unless that “old dragon” reference in Revelation 20:2 is intended to refer back to the creation story.

 

There are many things about “the Fall” that I find puzzling, but as much as I’d like to start listing and raising questions about them – the kinds of impertinent questions that tend to aggravate the hell out of True Believers™ because they aim at getting people to think about the notions they take for granted – I’m going to focus on the snake because that’s the kind of mood I happen to be in at the moment (that copperhead I encountered in the Ozarks last weekend might have something to do with it). Let me address a few serpentine questions to any creationists who happen to reading this:
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A response to “Religion and science can we talk?”

We here at Atheist Analysis don’t usually create formal response letters to blogs or news stories unless they are of immense social and humanistic consequence, but recently a link was given to me that lead to a progressive christian blog.  This more compromising version of faith is, to me, less harmful and overall a step in the right general direction, while still providing enough material for all of us here on the blog team to continue picking apart the hypocrisy; it’s the cutting off heads and hellfire damnation that is lacking – for the better, most would concede.

 

For this short reply blogger Moonlit History and I, Deafilosophy (or Chris Hanna as there are a lot of pseudonyms being thrown around at the moment), will be commenting on some of the points, perspectives, open-ended questions, and conclusions made in the article linked above.  So without further ado, I will begin.

 

Deafilosophy

Aside from the horrendous grammar in the title of the article at hand, or, more accurately, the lack thereof, I was initially quite content with just perusing the content with a smile as any time people of faith accept science over empty pseudo-superlatives I get all warm and fuzzy inside.  But, that title just ate at me. Let’s try, “Religion and Science: Can We Talk?” instead.  There, isn’t that better?

 

As an engineer and open atheist almost all my life, I did not know atheism had a name until high school. I am quite familiar with most of the apologetic and progressive arguments for God that absorb scientific explanations.  Immediately the fine tuning argument is casually implied with an invocation of the cosmological constant, and, of course, mentioning Albert Einstein, a noted Spinozan deist at best.

 

Two things and then I will give the floor to my esteemed colleague; the fine tuning argument is the most basic argument for the prime mover, for classical deism, and it is also the limit of our understanding of the universe at the moment.  But using this argument to prove the personal Christian God is to overextend and ultimately, as C.S. Lewis was so apt to do, try to prove too much with too little:

 

“Sigmund Freud wrote that the voice of reason was small, but very persistent. C. S. Lewis tried to prove too much by opining that the presence of a conscience indicated the divine spark” (Hitchens, “god is not Great,” 2007, p. 256).
Continue reading “A response to “Religion and science can we talk?””