Saturday, July 21, 2007

You could actually hear the thud as I posted my last post.

Given the flop that was my last post I have decided to put up a topic more likely to arouse response.

My family just received the new Harry Potter book. DW decided that we are going to read it as a family. We read the first two chapters (between babysitting the wife's nieces and nephew). So far I am not bored. Must say, this is the first fiction read in quite a while. Rowling can weave a tale.

So, what are your thoughts on the last tome of the wizard world? You reading it? You give a poop? Hate it? Love it? Have at it. I will update as we get further into the text.

HH =)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A question...

Having had a number of highly intelligent, and well-read readers of late I put this question before you...

Christopher Hitchens labels his beliefs as "anti-theist." His argument is that even if god was real and religion(s) were true, who would want it? Here is a video of a recent speech. Do you subscribe to this view, the "atheist" view (no god belief), both, or neither? The more I listen to him and read further into his book (God is NOT great), the more I really think I am an Anti-theist.

I look forward to your thoughts.


p.s. if you follow the link above, you really need high-speed since it is a real player video.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Longing to engage, but learning my lessons...

Been following a discussion on another blog. I wish, intensely, to jump in and hammer upon a few individuals who have responded. I spend much of my spare time debating online the whole god/faith concept. And, the rather repetitive, and fallacious argument's that people make to support their "god" belief are so predictable now that I thought I might articulate them here. I will, in my next post, take issue with the real "issue" in it all. And that is "faith." But for now, here is a quick summary of the 8 fallacies I come upon the most.

1. False Dichotomy- This argument involves attempting to put the doubter on the defensive and goes something like this- "Science/Logic can't prove everything so they must be wrong. If Science/logic are wrong then God explains it." The issues here are two-fold. First, Science makes no claim to be wrong/right on anything. Scientists do (because they are people who make claims). But, science is "method" not a belief system (this is part of fallacy 2 below). But even if science and reason are wrong, does the "god" win by default? No. God must stand on its own merit. There also may be other explanations (flying spaghetti monster, invisible pink unicorn, Santa Claus, "E" energy waves, etc.). So the false choice is obvious, it a not between god and science.

2. Straw Man - This involves making up your adversaries position and then demonstrating your caricature to be false. In the god debate it goes like this, "Evolution says we came from monkey's. Since their are no middle-animals between monkeys and men, then it must be false." The problem is that no evolutionist has ever made such an assertion.

3. Ad Homonim - I am going to use an example I just came across this morning. "You are going through a mid-life crisis and that explains the loss of your god belief." First, it is personally insulting. Now sometimes insults are warranted, but in this case it doesn't do anything to promote the argument. Even if someone is going through a mid-life crisis, there is no reason to think that has any bearing on whether or not there is a god. Name-calling is for wussies! *wink*

4. Argument from Ignorance - This comes up every single time. "Nobody was there in the beginning of the universe, and science can only take us back to a couple of seconds into the big bang. Therefore, the scientific explanation won't tell us where we came from, only god explains it." This particular argument contains more than just this one fallacy. But, let's attack it only from this fallacy viewpoint. It is an argument from ignorance in two ways. First, because scientists (physicists) have no explanation right now, does that mean that science won't eventually illuminate the truth? Of course not. Further, why does the universe have to have a beginning anyway? Way can't the universe be eternal? The point is, that just because the opposition can't explain it, doesn't mean another (more complicated, and untestable ) argument automatically will. Arguments from "faith" also fall into this category.

5. Argument from "Special Pleading."- This argument always has contained the words, "yo just don't understand..." In the god argument it goes like this. God is so complex and above our ability to define and understand that you just can not grasp his/her existence due to limitations of human intelligence." See the problem? If the problem is human understanding, then why does the opposition get to assume that he/she does understand? (This includes another inherent fallacy called the fallacy from testimony- Just because some says it with conviction doesn't make it true).
Another example is, "well I was praying one night, and as I was praying I recieved a special witness that my belief was true. I had a warm comforting feeling come over my body, and felt a peace I had never had before." Two problems with this, first, it was a personal experience and bears no relationship to the argument since any information it conveys was only available to the individual. Secondly, there are buddists, atheists, and other non-religious people who claim to have had sensations of calm and peace without reporting that they were caused by anything other than natural events. Finally, there are individuals who worship Allah and report the same things. Any reason to think Allah gave the Christian the personal sensation? What about the devil? Wouldn't the devil give you a feeling of peace if you believed something wrong? Where did the feeling come from? See the problem.

6. Argument from authority- Here I am going to use my own devil's advocate example. "Well Richard Dawkins is an expert on evolution, gene selection, and science. And he says there is no god. So neener neener." As my favorite Cosmologist, Carl Sagan, once wrote, "insane people can make perfectly rational statements, and highly educated folks with lots of research under their belts can be dead wrong on an issue. Authority has no power when searching for the truth." There is a bit of a grey area here in that if Richard Dawkins makes a statement on the selective mutation of fruit-fly larvae size, he carries some weight. Not because he is an authority per se, but because his research in fruit-flies makes him an expert. He could still be wrong, but what makes him an expert is that he can produce data and evidence to support his claims/theories. Claims are justified on the evidence.

7. Arguement from Popularity - " So you think 12 millions Mormons are just plain wrong?" I get this statement all the time. My retort is, "so you think 1 billion Muslims are wrong?" The fallacy here is that just because a lot of people hold the same belief, has no bearing whatsoever that it is true. If truth was truth by agreement here, then we should all adopt Catholicism and be done with it.

8- Arguement from positive behavior - This one was used just recently by Reverend Al Sharpton in a debate with Christopher Hitchens. I guess that Christopher saw it as so transparently weak that he didn't appear to address it. The problem was nicely summed up by Bertrand Russell when he wrote, "that fact that religion has a good effect on a mans behavior, is no evidence whatsoever on its being true or not." There is a foundation in India, founded by Gora (a follower of Ghandi's) which has rasied millions of dollars to build hospitals, feed and care for starving children, generated help to elevate to plight of the "untouchables" to world-wide media. He stated that his Athiems prompted him to do such noble work. Is this any evidence that god does not exist? Nope.

Finally, for my part I accept Carl Sagan's most famous quote. "Extraordinary claims, require extraordinary evidence." God/gods being an extraordinary claim, must be supported with extraordinary evidence. Since there is NO evidence of god, I have no belief. My atheism is therefore, summed up.

My arguments against "faith" will be later. But, let's just say that this is where, in my 8-year long debating history, every argument with a believer has ended up. If there is no reason to think "faith" has merit, then that argument (special pleading) fails too.

For a read that is imminently readable and much better at demonstrating this type of rationalism, read "Atheism: The Case Against God by George H. Smith". In my opinion the best book on the subject to date.

Best Wishes,


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Other People's hormones keeping me up at night...

Was up late last night. You see there were 8 or 9 teenagers chatting in my backyard until 11:30. My son was "hanging" with a few of his friends. They all lazily layed/sat on our trampoline while chatting, laughing, and flirting. Now our bedroom window faces the back of the house. It was freaking hot last night, so we had our window open to let in the night breeze.

I was just drifting off to sleep as the whiff of teenage hormones pierced my nose, and the sound of chit-chat filled the neighborhood. They were rounding the corner just a half block away. The good wife was waiting up (she can't sleep until the boy is safely tucked into bed) and nudged me just a bit as she layed across me trying to overhear their chatter (she is a bit nosy).

I remember those teen aged summer nights as we discussed hopes, dreams, and meaningless stuff in Mrs. Roylance's class the school year before. The almost too intense joy that filled me as I sat close with friends and wondered if that girl in the group was as intensely taken with me as I was with her. Would she let me hold her hand? Would we end the night with a lot of non-committal kissing and snuggling? It was almost too much anticipation for my immature body to contain. Eventually I would make my move. Eventually she would make hers... farther away from me on the trampoline, and toward Ryan (every girl had the hots for Ryan.... Damnit!).

But the sensations, although in memory only, are as fresh today as they were twenty plus years ago (crud! has it really been that long?). I impose these fleeting sensations upon my boy as I faintly hear his voice emerge from the lulled conversations reaching my aging ears. "Can you tell what they are saying," I asked the wife in a whisper.


I could sense her impish grin in the dark of our room. My sons most recent girlfriend was with the group. Did they hold hands? Did they kiss? Did they snuggle just a little bit? My vicarious joy for him was almost as intense as it was for myself in the way-back-when.

Eventually, I drifted off to sleep, because, tiredness outranks curiosity for me every time.

The boy won't stop smiling this morning.


Monday, July 02, 2007

A quickie!

Just recently both of my "LDS" parents noted that their non-religious son (moi) was the one that they depend on for courtesy, respect, and decency. Both remarks came out of the blue.

Also, two of my wives relatives (two I admire greatly) flattered me by saying that they could not have chosen a better father and husband for my kids and wife than me. I blushed.

I have noticed, subjectively, that as people lose their religion, they tend to be more interpersonally decent, moral, and accepting of diverse thought. I could be way off base here, but this came to mind when I cam across a great quote:

Hellmut wrote: "The character of some people definitely improves once they shed the obligations of sanctified bigotry." You may find it here.

You know, I am a better behaved person without religion clouding my mind with bigotry. It just seems easier to choose the morally correct thing to do. Perhaps (follow me here) losing the fear of hell and the hope of heaven has allowed me to focus on results in the here and now, rather than the dogmatic outcomes which always seemed ambiguous and confusing? Could religious-LESS-ness make the world a better place?