Friday, January 29, 2010

Are the terms Atheism and Theism Mutually Exclusive?

Yes,

Two contradicting propositions cannot both be true when one proposition is the direct negation of the other.

This invokes two of the formal laws of logic, Excluded middle and the law of Noncontradiction.

Atheism and Theism is a true dichotomy. Atheism is a lack of belief in a god/Gods, Theism is a belief in a God/Gods.

Now where does that leave agnostics? Agnostics claim that knowledge of a God is unknowable. But is it possible to believe in something that is unknowable? Assuming that the matter is truly unknowable I have to answer yes (it is otherwise known as faith). Therefore the word agnosticism is not mutually exclusive to the terms of atheism and theism. One may call themselves an agnostic and be a theist or an atheist.

But, what about a person who professes no belief in a God and calls himself an agnostic? By default that person is shoved into the true dichotomy of Atheism and Theism, and must label themselves as an atheist, whether he/she likes it or not.

The Misuse of the word "Faith" Reproduced

The following was found on this forum written by a user by the name of MRiedl: I feel it necessary to reproduce it as a great many people do not understand how definitions and words work and do not understand how to argue concepts.

A lot of times on these forums I have heard the word "Faith" applied in two separate incorrect ways.

As such, I am going to make the attempt to explain exactly why misusing the word eventually boils down to a straw man argument.

For those not familiar with the straw man fallacy, it is, in simplest terms, to misrepresent your opponent's position and argue against that misrepresented position.

It is considered a fallacy because you never actually argue against your opponent's position.

=======

The first and most common method of misusing the word Faith is to use the word without regard for definition. Let's begin by looking at the definition:

faith - Definitions from Dictionary.com

Quote:
faith

1.confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.

2.belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

3.belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.

4.belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.

5.a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.

6.the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.

7.the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.

8.Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved. —Idiom

9.in faith, in truth; indeed: In faith, he is a fine lad.
Now, let's break it down into the related groups of definitions:

#'s 1, 4, 6, 7, and 9 all relate to concepts like trust and fidelity.

#2 is a special case.

#'s 3, 5, and 8 are all purely religious terms.

======

As for the top set of definitions, they rarely apply to these matters. Faith is something of a loaded word, and as such, a lot of people like myself shy away from using it because there is a great deal of potential for misunderstanding.

Admittedly I could say "I have faith in the scientific method."

However, I would typically say something like "I have a great deal of confidence in the scientific method."

It's essentially the same thing as faith definition #1, but it lacks the potential for misinterpretation.


Now, when the word Faith is used in these forums, it is typically used either as a religious term, or as #2. Part of the problem is that this is rarely defined specifically.

I have often heard assertions like: "Evolution is a religion which requires faith." where they could be trying to apply either definition #2 or any of the religion specific definitions to it.

The big problem with these assertions is that they are woefully inaccurate.

For an example, I highly doubt that there is a single Atheist here who thinks of evolution as a religion. Similarly, I have yet to see an evolutionist fail to cite evidence as the reason for their belief in evolution.

As such, faith is not a part of their argument, at least as far as the aforementioned definitions go. If you want to dispute the validity of the evidence that is cited, by all means do so. The argument that someone is using faulty evidence is very different from the assertion that they are going without evidence, and faith only applies to the latter.

In other words, you are not actually arguing against the position of your opponent, and you are building a Straw Man.


========

The other, thankfully less common misapplication of the word faith is when people make up their own definition.

Honestly, it just doesn't work. The reason should be obvious. The reader hasn't the slightest clue what your personal definition of the word is. How could they?

You could just as effectively type in random letters as a definition, as the result is exactly the same.

Instead, if you have your own special definition for something like this; please, in the interest of effective communication, just describe it in your own words.

==========

To conclude, I would just like to say that intentionally misusing the word faith as such is only really a propaganda tool, and a rather ineffective one at that. There is really very little that can be done about such of course. That just leaves individuals who are misusing the word unknowingly, at whom this essay is directed.

Whenever I see an assertion like "Evolution is a religion that requires faith." I dismiss it as the rhetoric it is. Why? Because it is demonstrably incorrect and has nothing to do with the arguments involved.

Similarly, I would extend an appeal to people in general to endeavor always to address your opponent's actual arguments when you discuss things. Otherwise you aren't really arguing with them at all.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Look at this Adamant Atheist Scientist

Do you see those fangs and horns growing out of him. Oooohhh he said that religion and myths are on the same level. Can we honestly get over the dishonesty and call a spade a spade. Faith is a belief for which there is no evidence, and a belief which is impervious to contradicting evidence, it does not deserve reverence or respect.



to quote noble prize winner Jack Szostak:

In my view a scientific world view is one based on continuous questioning and therefore a search for more and better evidence and theories; faith in the unknowable plays no role. I think that belief systems based on faith are inherently dangerous, as they leave the believer susceptible to manipulation when skepticism and inquiry are discouraged.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How low can you go?

The following video is supposedly not satire. It consists of a man/preacher telling us how to raise people form the dead through the power of Jesus.

Synopsis: He went to Africa where he was preaching and some Africans interrupt him which makes him angry, they take him to a dead woman, whereupon he raises her from the dead and the Africans run and tackle her, she then steals their money and they tackle her again, then they share the gospel of Jesus Christ with her and she converts to Christianity (OMG Praise the Lord).

Watch this video to see how ridiculously idiotic this shit is. But, I think that this video isn't as bad as the fact that I know that there are some people who will/have watch/watched this and actually believe/believed this shit.


video

The above idiots website: http://www.kingdomrevelation.org

Saturday, January 23, 2010

One of the Dangers of Pseudoscience

Are there any consequences for believing in things with which there is no evidence for? YES! Dowsing rods do not work and there are consequences for believing that they do.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Cause Worth Donating to

If you have money to spare you can trust that it will go to the right place without the religious baggage attached. If a poor graduate student like me can donate so can you.

"It's an uncaring universe out there, if we don't pull together and support each other, no one else is going to do it for us. We are all we have."

Reproduced from Pharyngula:

Non-Believers Giving Aid

Category: Godlessness
Posted on: January 16, 2010 8:52 PM, by PZ Myers

If you haven't already donated to disaster relief in Haiti, here's your chance: a new umbrella organization to coordinate charitable giving for the godless has been set up. In the first two hours that this was created, over $11,000 has been donated. Get on the bandwagon!

Non-Believers Giving Aid: a religion-free way to help disaster victims

Washington, DC January 17, 2010

In response to the tragedy in Haiti, several organizations representing 'non-believers' and others have set up a disaster relief fund called 'Non-Believers Giving Aid'. In an appeal for donations, the website of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science states (http://givingaid.richarddawkins.net/):

Spurred by the horrific suffering in Haiti, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS) has set up a dedicated bank account and PayPal facility to collect donations to non-religious relief organizations. This new account is in the new name of Non-Believers Giving Aid, with all of the money donated being distributed to disaster relief.

Clearly the immediate need is for the suffering people of Haiti, and all the money raised by this current appeal will go that cause, but the new account will remain available for future emergencies too. There are, of course, many ways for you to donate to relief organizations already, but doing it through Non-Believers Giving Aid offers a number of advantages:

100% of your donation will be go to these charities: not even the PayPal fees will be deducted from your donation, since Richard will personally donate a sum to cover the cost of these (Capped at $10,000). This means that more of your money will reach the people in need.

When donating via Non-Believers Giving Aid, you are helping to counter the scandalous myth that only the religious care about their fellow-humans.

It goes without saying that your donations will only be passed on to aid organizations that do not have religious affiliations. In the case of Haiti, the two organizations we have chosen are:

Doctors Without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières)

International Red Cross

You may stipulate using a dropdown menu which of these two organizations you want your donation to go to; otherwise, it will be divided equally between them.

Preachers and televangelists, mullahs and imams, often seem almost to gloat over natural disasters - presenting them as payback for human transgressions, or for 'making a pact with the devil'. Earthquakes and tsunamis are caused not by 'sin' but by tectonic plate movements, and tectonic plates, like everything else in the physical world, are supremely indifferent to human affairs and sadly indifferent to human suffering. Those of us who understand this reality are sometimes accused of being indifferent to that suffering ourselves. Of course the very opposite is the truth: we do not hide behind the notion that earthly suffering will be rewarded in a heavenly paradise, nor do we expect a heavenly reward for our generosity: the understanding that this is the only life any of us have makes the need to alleviate suffering even more urgent. The myth that it is only the religious who truly care is sustained largely by the fact that they tend to donate not as individuals, but through their churches. Non-believers, by contrast, give as individuals: we have no church through which to give collectively, no church to rack up statistics of competitive generosity. Non-Believers Giving Aid is not a church (that's putting it mildly) but it does provide an easy conduit for the non-religious to help those in desperate need, whilst simultaneously giving the lie to the canard that you need God to be good.

Please help us to help the suffering people of Haiti.


The organizations and supporters actively involved in this effort include:

Atheist Alliance International
Atheists United
The British Humanist Association
James Randi Educational Foundation
Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
Pharyngula
The Reason Project
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
The Skeptics Society

Quoting Richard Dawkins, "The merciless power of tectonic plate movement has conjured a disaster of epic proportions and all of us, whether religious or not, must do all in our power to help."

Author, scientist and Founder of the Reason Project Sam Harris said, " It is widely imagined that, in times of crisis, religious people render aid in disproportion to their numbers. Richard Dawkins has now created an opportunity for nonbelievers, who are rightly focused on the welfare of their fellow human beings in this life, to put the lie to this myth."

The President of Atheists United commented "The indiscriminate consequences of earthquakes, floods, fires and such remind us that there is no god to protect us, and that humankind must come together to do what we can to help and protect each other."

Michael Shermer, the Executive Director of the participating Skeptics Society, notes: "It's all well and good to say that we nonbelievers are just as moral as believers (we are, but that's a philosophical point)--actions count more than words and real donations are where the theoretical rubber meets the practical road. This is our time to pony up and show the world our true character.

Jason Torpey, President of Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers stated, "As they have done with the Out Campaign, Non-Believers Giving Aid continues the RDFRS tradition of positive, community-centered atheist coalition building."

A spokeswoman for the Richard Dawkins Foundation noted, "While those of us who do not believe in a god or gods might identify ourselves as 'atheists', 'humanists', 'non-theists', 'skeptics', 'Freethinkers', or other label - the term 'non-believer' has been brought into the public consciousness by President Obama and is easily identifiable. Independent of whether we are non-believers or not, the tragedy of Haiti pulls at everyone's heartstring. All of us are unified in our humanity."




Non-Believers Giving Aid
http://givingaid.richarddawkins.net


The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is a 501(c)(3).
www.RichardDawkinsFoundation.org
www.RichardDawkins.net

Contact: Liz Cornwell, rec@RichardDawkins.net
719.351.6324
Mailing Address: 11605 Meridian Market View, Unit 124 PMB 381, Falcon CO 80831

Photo downloads: http://richarddawkins.net/media

Contacts for participating organizations

Atheist Alliance International
http://www.atheistalliance.org/
Contact: Stuart Bechman, President email: president@atheistalliance.org
Tel: +01-866-HERETIC.

Atheists United
http://www.atheistsunited.org/
Contact: Bobbie Kirkhart, President email:e-mail president@atheistsunited.org
Tel: 323-229-5500.

The British Humanist Association
http://www.humanism.org.uk
Contact: Andrew Copson, Chief Executive email: andrew@humanism.org.uk
Tel: 020 7079 3584 or 07534 248596.

James Randi Educational Foundation
http://www.randi.org
Contact: D.J. Grothe, President email: idjgrothe@randi.org
Tel: 954-467-1112
Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF)
http://www.maaf.info
Contact: Jason Torpy, President email: president@maaf.info
Tel: 614-329-1776

Pharyngula
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/
Contact: PZ Myers, pzmyers@gmail.com
Tel: 320 589-7116

The Reason Project
http://www.reasonproject.org/
Contact: Sam Harris email: contact@reasonproject.org

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
http://www.RichardDawkinsFoundation.org & www.RichardDawkins.net
Contact: Liz Cornwell, Executive Director email: rec@RichardDawkins.net
Tel: 719.351.6324

The Skeptics Society
http://www.skeptic.com/
Contact: Michael Shermer, Founder email: mshermer@skeptic.com
Tel: 626/794-3119

For information on the Disaster Relief Agencies:

Doctors Without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières)
http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

International Red Cross
http://www.icrc.org/

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Whole Lot of Nothing

For this weeks mandatory CMB graduate seminar the department invited Aubrey de Grey the Chief Science Officer of the SENS Foundation. He gave a talk on something he called rejuvenating research, whereby taking care of so called pre-defined "Damage" humans will be able to extend their lifespans indefinitely. He proposed that the possibly for humans to live indefinitely is attainable within the next 20-30 years. While the talk was humorous at times, it was utterly bogged down by its lack of anything resembling science. I think that I can summarize his talk quite easily, ooohhh nice quick quips, bullet points, gotta define my points so that I can defend against major intrinsic problems with them, big colorful graphs with numbers, very scientefeek (own def. resembling science to people who don't know better), oh ya just to be controversial and make money let's end this thing with a bang and say something ridiculous then plug my book and ask for donations.

The talk was actually about the advocacy for awareness of longevity research. The speaker made it very clear that his SENS(Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) foundation does not do science, they just hypothesize about what they think science can do. In a very "Kurzweilian" manner the speaker presented a graph that proposed a pseudo-Moore's law for aging therapies (healing his so called "Damage") which would double every 20-30 years leading to humans indefinitely living. One should keep in mind that not a single therapy for the ill defined "damage" has ever been shown to increase the life-span of anything. 'That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.' to quote one of my favorite intellectuals, Christopher Hitchens perfectly sums up this situation. In a lovely display of intellectual dishonesty the speaker presented quotes showing a false dichotomy of a "you are either with us or against us attitude". You either support longevity research or you are responsible for the deaths of countless human lives, totally ignoring the fact that one of the goals of Biomedical science is to prolong lives without suffering and the fact that practically everyone wants to live longer and healthier lives minus the hard work to achieve it. Sorry Mr. Grey but we don't need to believe in your bullshit in order to support and research methods to help improve and stop the aging process.

What should I say about this? Isn't it a disgrace for our school to invite pseudo-science speakers to science class lectures? I guess the best thing I can say about the guy is that at least he did say that nothing he talked about has any type of scientific data to support it.

While it would be impolite to call MR. Aubrey de Grey a hack, I hope that it is evident that I strongly imply that he is.

I have come across a great review as to why Mr. de Grey's ideas are incompetent. Here is an excerpt:

1) SENS is based on the scientifically
unsupported speculations of Aubrey de Grey, which are camouflaged by the legitimate
science of others; 2) SENS bears only a superficial resemblance to science or
engineering; 3) SENS and de Grey’s writings in support of it are riddled with jargonfilled
misunderstandings and misrepresentations; 4) SENS’ notoriety is due almost
entirely to its emotional appeal; 5) SENS is pseudoscience.
http://www.technologyreview.com/sens/docs/estepetal.pdf

The author received 10k for his efforts from MIT review for his attempt at debunking this pseudo-science.

My New Hero

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The earliest Tetrapod



Niedzwiedzki G, Szrek P, Narkiewicz K, Narkiewicz M, Ahlberg PE (2010) Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland. Nature 463(7277): 43-48.