Cellar Door Skeptics #102: Arbitration Horror Story

Cellar Door Skeptics is back this year with our annual episode giving homage to horror stories. This week the duo have peppered the show with a few different horror stories for your enjoyment. Along with creepy music, they delve into a new AI that is working with folks on twitter to create unique short horror stories. Hanna’s Deep Dive segment will cap off his CRISPR research proving new insight. While not quite a horror story, the team will look VP Pence’s tie breaking vote in a bill that was struck down allowing for large corporations to prevent people from using class action law suits.

#Halloween #HorrorStories #CRISPR #Arbitration #DefendCFPB

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Intro Music: http://aloststateofmind.com/

Links
——
https://www.hauntedrooms.co.uk/5-short-true-ghost-stories
https://youtu.be/p9XMd2eAy_4
——
https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/new-ai-s-creepy-mind-turns-tweets-horror-stories-ncna814566
http://stories.shelley.ai/
https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/
http://shelley.ai
——
http://www.nature.com/news/crispr-gene-editing-tested-in-a-person-for-the-first-time-1.20988
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvv8_S4GZjc
http://www.templehealth.org/News/GeneEditingStrategyEliminatesHIV-1InfectioninLiveAnimalsTempleResearchersShow?showBack=true
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49X9r1QpMNo
https://www.nature.com/news/gene-drive-mosquitoes-engineered-to-fight-malaria-1.18858
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnzcwTyr6cE
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/human-gene-editing-therapies-are-ok-certain-cases-panel-advises
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqWoPCZ8jEE
——
https://creepylittlestories.com/scary-torture-story/
——
http://www.consumeradvocates.org/for-consumers/arbitration
https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/10/25/arbitration-vs-class-action-what-consumers-should-know-differearbitration-financial-service-provider/799046001/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfnoAngueY0
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/647
https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/10/25/senate-votes-overturn-rule-consumers-suing-banks/797728001/

Cellar Door Skeptics #95: The Secret Service Go Broke / Breast Milk Research / Bee Mathematicians 

Cellar Door Skeptics return with another episode ready to tickle your political and scientific fancy. The duo begins by taking a look at the budget that the Secret Service operates in, how it compared to Obama’s last year, and why the department is running out of money. They look at articles that predict this as far back as December 2016 while examining if other presidents have exceeded budget, or if this is exclusive to “Sun Blinded” Presidents. Later, Tanner brings up an article that looks at a new study released about breast milk properties that help fight Strep in infants. The article looks at a unique and hard to study source within mothers breast milk. To cap the show off, the team analyzes an article about whether or not bees are the first to understand the concept of zero and delve into a little bit about the history of the concept of zero.

#ZeroConcept #BeeMath #SecretService #BudgetDeficit #SunBlind #BreastFeeding #Science

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Intro Music: http://aloststateofmind.com/

Links
——
http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/secret-service-faces-massive-bill-for-protecting-trump-232153
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/secret-service-asked-for-60-million-extra-for-trump-era-travel-and-protection-documents-show/2017/03/22/0967e7b6-0a85-11e7-a15f-a58d4a988474_story.html?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.82ef8fa63afd
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/secret-service-says-it-will-run-out-of-money-to-protect-trump-and-his-family-sept-30/2017/08/21/93d30132-868c-11e7-961d-2f373b3977ee_story.html?utm_term=.cc6efd948580
https://www.secretservice.gov/press/reports/
https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/dhs.pdf
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE1cUAnGwbM
——
https://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/6v2a9o/sugars_in_human_mothers_milk_are_nontoxic/?st=J6MXWYAU&sh=3f749ce7
https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2017/08/20/sugars-mothers-milk-antibacterial-agents/
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsinfecdis.7b00064
https://youtu.be/eMEvacLuxq0
——
https://www.newscientist.com/article/2142884-bees-are-first-insects-shown-to-understand-the-concept-of-zero/?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#link_time=1502270352
https://betterexplained.com/articles/thinking-about-zero/
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/history-of-zero/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y7gAzTMdMA

The Great Evolution Debate Notes

This blog post is a quick look inside Host Chris Hanna’s mind as he prepped for the debate. I thought this would be good for those who want to read what went into our side of the debate. 

Don’t forget to check out the episode right here!

Listen to the episode right here!

Opening statement (10 mins)
Things to ask in rebuttal to Aaron’s opening
His definition of evolution: 

Science and fine tuning

Looking from the wrong direction: if you start at the solution (the theist way) then it’s amazing that life is so perfectly

Why the universe exists

Science explain morality

Science brainwashing

Evolutionists can’t explain the origin of life

Abiogenesis is not evolution

Big bang is not evolution

Preagers big bangs bull

Says we have never seen evolution

Evolutionism would be moraless and we should be animals

Evolution is not destiny, it is not fate.

-Evolution is neither moral nor immoral. It just is, and we make of it what we will. I have tried to show that two things we can make of it are that it’s simple and it’s marvelous.

Second law of Thermodynamics… Inaccurate use

Stalin and evolutionists and immorality

Immorality and murder abroad…

Why is the final size of a whale indicative of problems for its growth and for evolution.

Camel look down a giraffe and heart problem (mixed species?)

Beaver with wearable teeth?

Birds that work together to survive?

Upright tree confirms a global flood?
Chris Hanna’s Opening
So it goes… Some of you might recognize that phrasing from the late great Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse 5” as the allegorical end to life. Evolution is a dead theory; a claim professed wantonly, casually, and without refrain or source as our visitor told us in his last debate with Chris. Often, as Darwin so eloquently said:
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
So it goes indeed, as you have no doubt just heard; the goalposts have already been moved, the sharp and heartless lines of science cast aside for philosophical demand for absolutes. I am not here to offer you, our dear listener, any form of salvation, guarantee, or forever quiet your questioning mind. In fact I am here to do the opposite, the depth and brevity of the theory of evolution is the culmination of human kind’s short period of genuine investigative time on this earth.
From the undeniable fossil record, to the predictability of Darwin’s initial hypotheses, to the modification of evolution by gene sequencing known as neo-Darwinism, to the current Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, employing fossil transitions in palaeontology, and complex cellular mechanisms in developmental biology, and to the future in a proposed extended evolutionary synthesis, which would account for the effects of non-genetic inheritance modes, such as epigenetics, parental effects, ecological and cultural inheritance, and evolvability.
Yes, for those of you who do not know, and possibly for my opponent here, the basic foundation of Jean-Baptiste Lamarckian Inheritance, also known as soft evolution, that was given mechanical validity through Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and other notable publications, has acted as the underlying structure for further progress of the laws and predictions made by evolution resulting in the tools used by all modern biology.  
In every case of small or large modification to the theory of evolution, incorrect assumptions were replaced by verifiable, testable, and repeatable experimental data; all of this growth has further cemented its validity elevating the scientific consensus to that of fact.
The argument is as follows: the theory of gravity, the spherical earth, heliocentricity, the germ theory of disease, and the theory of relativity are all so empirically valid that even small changes are unlikely. Of course science is a probabilistic creature making absolutes all but impossible; still the likelihood of information calling into question the inherent truth to any of these foundational structures of modern science, including evolution, are so remote that the scientific community has in turn given its verdict, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they are true. You really don’t think the recent spate of NBA stars professing a flat earth will really change anything do you?
So, let us first establish the skeleton before we attempt to populate the evolutionary creature with a functioning muscular system. The modern theory of evolution is as follows: Life on earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species— perhaps a self-replicating molecule—that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species; and the mechanism for most (but not all) of evolutionary change is natural selection. There are six basic tenets that make up the theory evolution, gradualism, speciation, common ancestry, natural selection, and nonselective mechanisms of evolutionary change.
The first is the idea of evolution itself. This simply means that a species undergoes genetic change over time. That is, over many generations a species can evolve into something quite different, and those differences are based on changes in the DNA, which originate as mutations.

The second part of evolutionary theory is the idea of gradualism. It takes many generations to produce a substantial evolutionary change, such as the evolution of birds from reptiles.

The Third, that of splitting, or, more accurately, speciation.

speciation simply means the evolution of different groups that can’t interbreed — that is, groups that can’t exchange genes.

species don’t have to split. 

circumstances allow populations to evolve enough differences that they are no longer able to interbreed. 

The vast majority of species — more than 99 percent of them — go extinct without leaving any descendants.

we all share fundamental traits. Among these are the 

biochemical pathways that we use to produce energy, 

our standard four-letter DNA code, 

how that code is read and translated into proteins. 

The fourth, common ancestry; we can always look back in time, using either DNA sequences or fossils, and find descendants joining at their ancestors.

By sequencing the DNA of various species and measuring how similar these sequences are, we can reconstruct their evolutionary relationships.

This is the point where the second tier of evolution was added as mentioned earlier.

The fifth part of evolutionary theory is natural selection. 

explains apparent design in nature by a purely materialistic process that doesn’t require creation or guidance by supernatural forces.

Over time, the population will gradually become more and more suited to its environment as helpful mutations arise and spread through the population, while deleterious ones are weeded out. …It requires only that individuals of a species vary genetically in their ability to survive and reproduce in their environment.

Evolution is like an is not a master architect but more like a tinkerer who cannot design a building from scratch, but must build every new structure by adapting a preexisting building, keeping the structure habitable all the while. (13)

So natural selection does not yield perfection — only improvements over what came before. It produces fitter, not the fittest.

Richard Dawkins provided the most concise definition of natural selection: it is “the nonrandom survival of random variants.” 

The sixth processes other than natural selection can cause evolutionary change.

epigenetics, the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off

DNA from humans is made up of approximately 3 billion nucleotide bases. There are four fundamental types of bases that comprise DNA – adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine, commonly abbreviated as A, C, G, and T, respectively.

The sequence, or the order, of the bases is what determines our life instructions. Interestingly enough, our DNA sequence is mostly similar to that of a chimpanzee.

Within the 3 billion bases, there are about 20,000+ genes. Genes are specific sequences of bases that provide instructions on how to make important proteins – complex molecules that trigger various biological actions to carry out life functions.

parental effects a situation where the phenotype of an organism is determined not only by the environment it experiences and its genotype, but also by the environment and genotype of its mother 

ecological and cultural inheritance, the process in which an organism alters its own (or other species’) environment, often but not always in a manner that increases its chances of survival

Evolvability the capacity of a system for adaptive evolution. Evolvability is the ability of a population of organisms to not merely generate genetic diversity, but to generate adaptive genetic diversity, and thereby evolve through natural selection
Whew, take a breath, the theory of evolution is quite vast, complex, and highly driven by experts at the very extent of human knowledge and understanding. Experts, I remind you, that while aggressively critical of each other’s work since they derive status and prestige from disproving proposed theorems and papers, are in almost uniform consensus on the validity of evolution.
So what now? Evidence you say? Oh damn right my good little budding scientists. Finishing out this segment will be cases of transitional fossils, evolutionary adaptations and the mechanisms where genuine evolution has been seen in the lab, and finally realtime, in the lifetime of one human, speciation that has has occurred will show up in the Q and A segments
While we may speculate about the details, the existence of transitional fossils—and the evolution of birds from reptiles—is fact. Fossils like Archaeopteryx and its later relatives show a mixture of birdlike and early reptilian traits, and they occur at the right time in the fossil record. Scientists predicted that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, and, sure enough, we find theropod dinosaurs with feathers. We see a progression in time from early theropods having thin, filamentous body coverings to later ones with distinct feathers, probably adept gliders. What we see in bird evolution is the refashioning of old features (forelimbs with fingers and thin filaments on the skin) into new ones (fingerless wings and feathers)—just as evolutionary theory predicts.

Australopithecus afarensis, or Lucy, is a personal favorite of mine, dating back 3.2 million years. She was between twenty and thirty years old, three and a half feet tall, weighing a scant sixty pounds, and possibly afflicted with arthritis. But most important, she walked on two legs. In a bipedally walking primate like ourselves, the femurs angle in toward each other from the hips so that the center of gravity stays in one place while walking, allowing an efficient fore-and-aft bipedal stride. In knucklewalking apes, the femurs are slightly splayed out, making them bowlegged. When they try to walk upright, they waddle awkwardly. If the femurs angle toward the middle, it’s bipedal. And Lucy’s angle in—at almost the same angle as that of modern humans. She walked upright. Her pelvis too resembles that of modern humans far more than that of modern chimps. Her head was distinctly ape like with a torso that appears a mixture of the two, and with a lower section that is almost identical to modern humans.
Human transitional fossils 20 species from over 6000 individual skeletons: 

Sahelanthropus tchadensis, 

Orrorin tugenensis, 

Ardipithecus kadabba, 

Ardipithecus ramidus, 

Australopithecus anamensis,  

Kenyanthropus platyops, 

Australopithecus afarensis, 

Australopithecus garhi, 

Paranthropus aethiopicus, 

Australopithecus africanus, 

Homo rudolfensis, 

Australopithecus sediba, 

Homo habilis,

Paranthropus robustus, 

Paranthropus boisei, 

Homo heidelbergensis, 

Homo erectus, 

Homo floresiensis, 

Homo neanderthalensis, 

Homo sapiens
5 min rebuttals each.

3 min Break

7 min Aaron Questions Time

7 min Chris Question Time
Please take a moment to explain the existence of useless and often detrimental vestigial features

the recurrence of pelvic and leg bones in whales and snakes,

the wings of flightless birds, 

the human Coccyx, 

the human appendix, 

wisdom teeth that have to be surgically removed, 

the human plica semilunaris which is like the nictitating membrane, or third eyelid, of other animals, and much more.

Now explain Atavisms, or the recurrence of ancestral traits in some not all like vestigial traits.

human embryonic processes where human embryos move through almost identical phases of mimicry of a fish embryo then amphibian, reptile, mammal, primate, and finally human? 

a combination of a tail, fishlike gill arches, and a fishlike circulatory system doesn’t seem necessary for a human embryo? | …The probable answer — and it’s a good one — involves recognizing that as one species evolves into another, the descendant inherits the developmental program of its ancestor: that is all the genes that form ancestral structures

Also some human babies have been born with a coccygeal projection which is, you guessed it, a tail

Some whales have wholly developed legs projecting from their vestigial hips, and horses often have two extra toes mimicking their fossilized ancestors? 

Dont forget Lanugo, its the full coat of hair that covers a human fetus’ body and is usually shed but sometimes mommy and daddy get a hairy baby.

Please explain the difference between Micro and Macro evolution and why one is possible but not the other.

Where is the line specifically

What about Ring Species? The Greenish Warbler of northern India migrated northeast and northwest around mountains that acted as a geographic barrier, the two northern forms viridanus and plumbeitarsus are highly distinct genetically, when the two expanding fronts met in central Siberia, they were different enough that they do not interbreed.

http://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~irwin/greenishwarblers.html 

What about the new species of plants that we have directly seen evolve in the wild through polyploidy and allopolyploidy, synthesized in the lab to verify

How does the polyploid species form in the first place? We needn’t go into the messy details here except to say that it involves the formation of a hybrid between the two parental species followed by a series of steps in which those hybrids produce rare pollen or eggs carrying double sets of chromosomes (these are called unreduced gametes). Fusion of these gametes produces a polyploid individual in only two generations. And all of these steps have been documented in both the greenhouse and in nature.

Because of this, you might have thought that such speciation would be very rare indeed. But it isn’t. Given that a single plant can produce millions of eggs and pollen grains, an improbable event eventually becomes probable.

This new allopolyploid has since radiated into five separate, morphologically diverse species: G. mustelinum, G. darwinii, G. barbadense, G. tomentosum, and the most important global supplier of agriculturally used cotton fiber G. hirsutm

5 min Aaron Question Time

5 min Chris Question Time
Noah’s evolution party consisted of of 1,877,920 species or 3,755,840 individual animals on the ark, we need only six more pairs of each species of bird to make it come out to seven pairs. That brings our count up to a grand total of 3,858,920 animals aboard the ark—two of each species, except birds which number fourteen each.

This equates to 187 new species a year for the conservative estimate of 10,000 year old earth and 313 if the earth is only 6,000 years old.

Where are all these species and how did they get to their current locations of equilibrium now?

Where are their fossilized trails of tears, as they most certainly would have been when considering a penguin walking down Mount Ararat and heading for ice…

Do vaccines and medicine work?

Vaccinations and Medicine resistance are major issues for the future of humankind, why are some no longer as effective as they used to be?

Another prime example of selection is resistance to penicillin. When it was introduced in the early 1940s, penicillin was a miracle drug against Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”). 

In 1941, the drug could wipe out every strain of staph in the world. Now, seventy years later, more than 95 percent of staph strains are resistant to penicillin. 

After mutations made Staph stronger the drug industry came up with a new antibiotic, methicillin, but even that is now becoming useless due to newer mutations. 

In both cases, scientists have identified the precise changes in the bacterial DNA that conferred drug resistance. 

Viruses, the smallest form of evolvable life, have also evolved resistance to antiviral drugs, most notably AZT (azidothymidine), designed to prevent the HIV virus from replicating in an infected body. 

Now we keep AIDS at bay with a daily three-drug cocktail, and if history is any guide, this too will eventually stop working. The evolution of resistance creates an arms race between humans and microorganisms

But fortunately there are some spectacular cases of microorganisms that haven’t succeeded in evolving resistance. (

We must remember that the theory of evolution doesn’t predict that everything will evolve: if the right mutations can’t or don’t arise, evolution won’t happen.) 

Streptococcus, for example, causes “strep throat, ” a common infection in children. These bacteria have failed to evolve even the slightest resistance to penicillin, which remains the treatment of choice. 

unlike the influenza virus, polio and measles viruses have not evolved resistance to the vaccines that have now been used for over fifty years.
3 min break

10 min Audience Questions

6 min closing arguments -whoever is making the positive claim goes first

The modern theory of evolution is as follows: Life on earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species— perhaps a self-replicating molecule—that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species; and the mechanism for most (but not all) of evolutionary change is natural selection.  
In an exhausted conclusion I defer to you dear listener, to the evidence given tonight and included in the links of my notes available immediately after this live show is concluded, to the simplicity of evolution compared to the alarmist fears that scientific materialism will invade our humanity like the hollywood robot revolution perversions of logic against the unpredictable emotional human obsolescence. Evolution is simply a theory about the process and patterns of life’s diversification, not a grand philosophical scheme about the meaning of life. it can’t tell us what to do, or how we should behave, or what we should believe in.. And this is the big problem for many believers, who want to find in the story of our origins a reason for our existence, and a sense of how to behave. 

If you can’t think of an observation that could disprove a theory, that theory simply isn’t scientific and this is a major failing for ID and Creationism in general as the presuppositions simply assert infallible ultimatums from the onset. While the heart of “materialism” or “naturalism” suggests that, evolution is true. And, any transcendent or metaphysical explanation that imposes itself upon the scientific and natural world are de facto discounted as irrelevant and absurd. However, conversely, transcendence and metaphysics are thus free from the imposition of scientific inquiry and invalidation. Hence my allusions to the segregation from belief and evolution including its acceptance throughout the progressive segment of the theistic population.
What we have seen here is well formed argumentative skills and a general formation of a worldview that is threatened, they believe, by the last universal common ancestor and the theory of evolution. But the genuine dog and cat ignorance of species and evoleitionFortunately as I just said he is rapidly becoming a minority as the largest christian faiths are evolving to survive. Once again:
Evolution is neither moral nor immoral. It just is, and we make of it what we will. I have tried to show that two things we can make of it are that it’s simple and it’s marvelous.
But there is something even more wondrous. We are the one creature to whom natural selection has bequeathed a brain complex enough to comprehend the laws that govern the universe. And we should be proud that we are the only species that has figured out how we came to be.

Sources

Review and Notes from Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne

https://vialogue.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/why-evolution-is-true-notes-review/

file:///C:/Users/Chris/Downloads/why-evolution-is-true-jerry-a-coyne.pdf

Nature article about Polyploids, Allopolyploids, and heredity including new synthesized species

http://www.nature.com/hdy/journal/v110/n2/full/hdy201279a.html 

More Polyploidy

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/for-plants-polyploidy-is-not-a-four-letter-word/ 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyploid#Allopolyploidy

Noah’s ridiculous story

https://ncse.com/cej/4/1/impossible-voyage-noahs-ark

Human fossil ancestry database

http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-fossils 

Shrinking Iguanas

https://asknature.org/strategy/body-shrinks-under-harsh-conditions/

Sea horses

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/05/090522-seahorses-stand-up.html

#82: School’s Out Forever

Cellar Door Skeptics Podcast is back this week to help bring some insight into the Trump Education Budget. Both Chris’ felt the Education Side of the Budget deserved a deeper dive. The episode would not be complete without a look at how Betsy Devos wants to lower our standing in education in comparison to other industrialized nations in the world. Second they will look at a Christian Blog a relative of Christopher’s shared about Bad Arguments Atheist make. The duo looks to see if any of these arguments are worth a grain of salt. The show will conclude with a descent into the potential dual morality of the brain. A scientific study published last year from Journal of Neuroscience completes a study on patients that have had brain damage and how they would respond to moral situations compared to those that do not.

Listen Now!

#BetsyDevos #Education #FederalBudget #DualBrain #StuffAtheistSay #Science

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Intro Music: http://aloststateofmind.com/

Links
——
https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget17/summary/17summary.pdf
https://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/2016report/index.html
http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/05/20/528464301/trump-gives-commencement-address-leaked-education-budget-has-big-cuts
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/trumps-first-full-education-budget-deep-cuts-to-public-school-programs-in-pursuit-of-school-choice/2017/05/17/2a25a2cc-3a41-11e7-8854-21f359183e8c_story.html?utm_term=.0f0ab8eb07a0
http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/03/16/520261978/trumps-budget-blueprint-pinches-pennies-for-education
https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/2018_blueprint.pdf
——
http://freethinkingministries.com/stuff-atheists-say-youre-almost-an-atheist/
http://freethinkingministries.com/stuff-atheists-say-believing-in-god-is-like-believing-in-santa-2/
http://freethinkingministries.com/stuff-atheists-say-a-crutch-a-fallacy-and-a-magical-being/
http://freethinkingministries.com/stuff-atheists-say-atheism-is-a-lack-of-belief/
http://freethinkingministries.com/stuff-atheists-say-extraordinary-claims-require-extraordinary-evidence/
——
http://www.jneurosci.org/content/36/48/12157
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ventromedial_prefrontal_cortex
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4259516/
http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_deontology.html

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.
Continue reading “Science, Evidence, and Faith”

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?””

Faith: It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

© David Teachout

 

As a human being I’m interested in broadening the understanding of my experiences and increasing my knowledge by identifying what I’m ignorant of and then looking to fill in the gaps. My humanity also determines the limits to fulfilling those desires. I have particular interests by virtue of being me, not every subject draws me the same way. I have time limitations so I have to choose on a daily basis what to read, what to study and plan accordingly for the future. I have career limits, in that my professional obligations concerning psychology direct me to continued education along paths associated with it and not, say, that of electrical engineering. I also, though this is controversial and not without a great number of caveats, have limitations on my intelligence; there are items I study which I struggle to understand while other people have already passed me by. All of these limits are part of being human, but none of them determine prior to the inquiry itself whether I could understand by virtue of that very humanity, they are only particular limits of my own.

 

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As an atheist I am confronted often by the simple declaration from religious adherents of “you have faith too” or in its more arrogantly adolescent form: “it takes more faith to be an atheist.” The confusing nature of this argument becomes immediately obvious when I inquire as to just what is meant, resulting in some example of the form: “you have faith that x will happen” where “x” is filled in by the sun rising tomorrow, the continued love of friends and family, or other such. From the days of my own belief, I can recall the apologetic of referencing wind or air when attempting to describe how the Holy Spirit works. Then, as now, the response to such attempts is to point out that the examples being referenced are not at all comparable.
Continue reading “Faith: It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means”

Skiing the Slippery Slopes of Belief: The Chair Lift of Science

About a decade ago, in the course of one of the most entertaining conversations it’s ever been my privilege to enjoy, my brother asked me “What exactly do you believe?” This question came as a rejoinder to my telling him that I don’t believe in God. I understood the very moment he asked it, that it was framed the wrong way. He was posing it as an alternative: “If you don’t believe in God, then just what do you believe in?” I also understood that I had my explanatory work cut out for me, as my brother and I do not always mean the same thing by the same words.

 

Just because one doesn’t believe in God, doesn’t mean that one must believe in something that substitutes for God. I have heard both Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins referred to as “your God.” I’ve also heard the charge that I have taken it upon myself to be my own God. I often see certain Christians arguing that way, but it’s a fallacy. I’m pretty sure it springs from some such notion as our having a “God-shaped hole” in our lives that can only be filled by God (a misunderstood, misappropriated idea that comes from Sartre). Ergo, if we do not fill that “God-shaped hole” with God, we must fill it with something else. The fallacy lies in the first premise: there is no such hole; Sartre’s figure of speech was just that and nothing more. It really is not a question of either/or.

 

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My brother’s question caught me somewhat off-guard: I’d never been asked it before, and didn’t see it coming (although I suppose I should have anticipated it). I remember mulling it over for a bit before responding as follows:

 

I believe whatever has been demonstrated to my satisfaction, either by my own observation or by the data and explanations supplied by those who have spent their lives in research. Belief in that sense requires no effort whatsoever: if something is apparent to me, I irresistibly believe it and there is no “leap of faith” involved. When it comes to the discoveries of the sciences, I have to rely on the testimony of those who are equipped to do the research and draw the conclusions, since I am no scientist. But I do not merely accept as proven what anyone says from a position of authority, without having the evidence laid out before me in a way that I can understand. If I have questions, I ask them. If I consider an explanation weak, or if I don’t understand it, I continue asking until someone explains it to my satisfaction. Only then do I accept the postulates of the sciences as “facts.” (As Stephen Jay Gould once said, “In science, ‘fact’ can only mean confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent. I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classes.”)

 

(Incidentally, I do not consider myself to have come to understand something in the sciences until I am able to explain it to the complete satisfaction of another non-scientist, such as my brother.)

 

Well, it turns out that that’s not all my brother meant by his question. This became clear to me when he shared his list of things he believes in: God, America, family, hard work, honesty, loyalty, etc. (the list traditionally includes motherhood and apple pie). I realized that he was using the infinitive “to believe” in a rather loose and changeable way: where God was concerned, it was ontology that was in view (I think); but the existence of America is not a matter of that kind of belief: he had something else in mind – and this applies also to family, hard work, and so forth. In other words, he was asking me what principles I’m committed to – a question that makes perfect sense when you consider the fact that during his entire lifetime as a Missionary Baptist, my brother has repeatedly heard the claim that atheists are reprobate, unprincipled libertines whose only value is self-gratification, no matter whom it harms. A lot of Christians appear to think this (although I don’t think my brother believes this, at least as regards yours truly).

 

Again, I had to mull over this metamorphosed question before responding: not because I’m unsure of my commitments (or needed some time to hatch a few on the spot), but because I felt the need to prioritize them and to get it right. And here’s the considered answer I finally gave him:

 

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I’m committed to many ideals, all of them reasonable in light of what I understand to be true about the world and about what it means to be human. Above all, I’m committed to justice and fairness. There is some tension between those two ideals, which is why I think that justice should be meted out only reluctantly when it involves severe punishment, and probably should be tempered with mercy. And a commitment to justice and fairness does not imply a rigid set of categorical imperatives (God-given, so to say) that define exactly what is just and fair before the fact: each case has to be dealt with individually, on its own merits. In a Manichean, black-and-white world, there would always be a clear distinction between the aggressor and the victim, and justice and fairness would be two names for the same thing. But in our more complex world, such distinctions are not so easily made. Those who draw them too casually always end up looking ridiculous, and they are rarely judged fair.

 

Consider, as an illustrative example, the four-year-old preacher to whom I made reference in a recent post, “It’s Child Abuse.” That child is being victimized by his circumstances. Foremost among those circumstances is his own father, the Pentecostal preacher whom the little boy is emulating. If we consider only proximate causes and effects, it’s pretty clear (to me, at least) that the little boy is being abused: his intellectual development is being stunted by his father. It would seem the just thing to do, to spring that little boy from such circumstances and place him in the protective custody of foster parents who would provide him with a library, an education, and normal playmates. But it probably wouldn’t be the fair thing to do, for a number of reasons – not least of which is that the little boy’s father, even though he is now in a position that I can only see as exploitive, no doubt came by his own attitudes honestly, having himself in turn been a victim of his upbringing. That’s why justice must always be tempered with mercy; otherwise, no fairness is possible.

 

It should not escape our notice that “fair” is a synonym for “beautiful,” as “grace” is for “beauty.” A fair world is a beautiful and gracious world, and I am prepared to argue that the converse is true as well – which is one reason that I never miss an opportunity to spread the gospel of Joseph Haydn, Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler.

Sex Ed Fail

It was in 4th grade: the day the girls were separated from the boys, and we watched a video about the changes our bodies were about to go through. Not much of it was news to me. I’d started my period months prior and already wore a bra. I didn’t really know why I had my period, though; the video didn’t explain that either. Just a very basic rundown of what to do when it was happening and that it meant we’d all become women.

 

The video went on to explain that now that we were becoming women, it was important to protect our purity for our future husbands. To save ourselves for our wedding nights. That failing to do so would devalue our love.

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Abortion: What Does Science Say on the Matter?

Well, as we all know, abortion is a pretty contentious topic in the United States. It also faces its strongest opposition from religious groups. Considering how we atheists do not believe in God and need to rationally conclude morality for ourselves; we cannot rely on religious moral pronouncements about abortion, but need to come to our own conclusions. Philosophically, there are many different moral stances framing the issue that atheists can take, but we can also apply science to the issue to come to reasonable conclusions. Being essentially a utilitarian, as I have made clear in previous articles, this is my take on the abortion issue. I see the abortion issue as having two different priorities that we need to balance: the life of the fetus and the mother’s right to her own body.

To me, a fetus most certainly is a human life, but we must be careful how we define and frame this issue. Some people see the killing of all human life to be bad, while I obviously disagree in this particular circumstance. It has been said by people who are pro-choice, particularly those not of a religious variety, that life does not begin, but that it continues. A fertilized egg is formed from living components from the mother and the father, and this gives a fertilized egg a distinct set of human DNA, which then grows into a fully born human. In a vacuum, it could be argued by some that this life should not be destroyed, but obviously this fertilization process does not happen within a vacuum. It typically happens in a fully grown, or nearly fully grown human female. This woman has her own priorities and concerns, and these should not be discounted simply because a fetus or an embryo or a fertilized egg is a human life. We must look at how the two priorities between the mother’s concerns and the life of the fetus should be weighed against each other.
Continue reading “Abortion: What Does Science Say on the Matter?”