21 February, 2010

Prove it!

One of the most pathetic of all arguments rationalists get from theists, and let's face if, they're all pretty pathetic, is that we "can't prove God doesn't exist." Please.

Secure in their ignorance, these simple folks really believe this is a killer argument.

I will set aside Christopher Hitchen's quip, "That which can be asserted with no evidence may be rejected with no evidence", even though it does cut straight to the heart of the matter.

Rather today I want to examine their claim in a somewhat differing light, offering an example which I hope will assist even the truest of believers in recognizing the thinness of the ice on which they have chosen to skate.

First a lesson in basic logic. Existential statements, those asserting that there is a (non-mathematical) entity possessing a specific property (or set of non-contradictory properties) can never be conclusively disproved...that is just the nature of any such proposition. Should theists therefore take comfort in this fact? Can they?

The answer is a resounding no, and where my example comes into play, because no matter how absurd a claim for existence is it can never be completely disproved.

I can claim, and I hereby do, that somewhere on our planet there exists a dog which can and does speak perfect English out of its butt, and I challenge theists (or anyone else for that matter) to prove me wrong. Before you injure yourself attempting to jump through logical hoops however, permit me to assist you. It cannot be done.

No one can look everywhere, check every dog, and say with total authority that I am wrong because there is always the probability that they have missed something somewhere or even, in this case at least, come across a butt-speaking dog which was not in the mood to cooperate.

Although they cannot be disproved, existential claims can on the other hand be proved quite simply. In the case above, all I need to do to prove my claim is to present the dog in question and the argument is over.

And so it is, my theist friends, that I need to ask: Where, precisely, is YOUR butt-speaking dog?

15 February, 2010

Whereas John delivers a climate change sermon to both sides:

For months now I have listened to, read, and thought a great deal about all the nonsense emanating from both sides of the “climate change” debate, and I can’t stand it any longer. Both sides are spending way too much time off topic and far too much effort on obfuscation, getting us nowhere and avoiding the real issues with which we must eventually come to grips.

First I need to address the climate science, it’s a crisis, we must act now, crowd.

Your science is, I accept, largely correct. That said, you have created two huge problems for yourself and your conclusions:

1. You have used some faulty data (misplaced data collection stations, etc.) and relied too much on computer simulations, leading to confusion among a not very well science-grounded American public. We all know that computer simulations can be a case of garbage-in, garbage-out. While you have been touting your results and screaming for action from government, you have failed totally to explain your data sources, inputs and methodology to the wider audience that is necessary to bring along if you expect politicians to react favorably to your findings. What is needed is a better, clearer explanation of your science, and far less politics and crying wolf.

2. You have spun data, tried to suppress dissenting findings and interpretations, and allowed the most unreliable among you (and yes, especially the IPCC and its irresponsible, political head) to become the face of your science. In so doing you have enabled those who dispute your findings, for whatever reasons – good and/or bad – to gain the high ground as well as momentum.

My advice: Stick to the science, explain it on a sixth grade level, avoid terms such as “crisis”, and root out those who would take shortcuts or play dirty pool in order to advance their conclusions.

Question: Is it not probable that the destruction of tropical forests has played at least as great a role in the accelerated warming we are seeing as SUVs and cow farts, and isn’t that a cheaper and less destructive (to world economic development) place to start to solve the problem?

As for my Libertarian and Conservative “denier” friends:

1. The science is not on your side, and pointing to misconduct on the part of a couple of warming advocates does not render untrue the totality of the findings. You are making yourselves look silly and thus destroying your own credibility by taking such an extreme position. Hello! The earth has been warming for the last 12,000 to 14,000 years, and the oceans have been rising right along with the temperatures. Climate change is a fact of life.

2. This rise in temperatures since the Younger Dryas has not been straight line, but rather in fits and starts. During the warming we have had extreme rises in temperatures in a short time (i.e. “The Medieval Warming Period”) along with rather strong reversals in the trend (i.e. the “Little Ice Age”). A harsh winter or a decade or two of reversal in warming is not evidence, much less proof, of the absence of the longer-term trend.

3. Given all we know about the effects of certain greenhouse gases, it is foolish to claim that mankind has not played a role in accelerating an already existing trend. What that role is, what percentage of the warming is attributable to it, and what actions if any are warranted, is where the debate needs to hinge, not on the fact of warming itself. If you want a seat at the table when policy is discussed, you must be focused on the real issues.

In conclusion: No matter which side of this debate we come down on, we all need to be better stewards of the earth and more aware of the crucial impact our species has had on it. If we can agree on that, then we can find a way to deal with the climate change phenomenon we are experiencing, one based on cooperation and continued growth.

06 February, 2010

Incredible, Really...

A few posts back I wrote of my bout with PCa and the importance of guys getting regular PSA checks. Incredibly, someone chose that post to leave the following comment:

DM said...
the atheist sins not only against God, but also against man...
Atheist: have you for but a moment considered that you have adopted a position against 98% of the human race, both past and present?

do you think you are RIGHT and they are all WRONG? WRONG

now listen to this arrogant puffed up son of a b***h....


little scientist geek who would try to usurp God Himself!!!

Visit: isgodimaginary.com/forum/index.php/topic,40909.0.htmls

you really need to add comment moderation to your blasphemy…

04 JANUARY, 2010 23:58
The first thing that stands out of course is "DM's" intellectual paucity. Unable to frame a coherent thought, much less a logical argument, he (she?) staggers back and forth between name-calling and linking to sites where one can only suppose someone else has done a better job at offering up at least a modicum of rational discourse.

I wonder if "DM" realizes the more than 1/6 of the worlds population - and almost the same fraction here in the U.S. - do not believe in a god of any kind. I doubt he has any awareness of the facts, given his groundless "98%" claim.

But the most glaring sign of the type of person with whom we are dealing is that the coward is even afraid to identify himself, going so far as to link to an empty blogger id.

Quite a person - eschew reasoned debate, call names, then runaway and hide, probably in his mommy's basement. Yep, sounds like a true Christian soldier to me.

01 February, 2010


It doesn’t seem that long ago, but back in 1978–79 a fascinating science series called “Connections”, written and featuring James Burke, aired in the UK and the US. If you have never seen it, parts of some episodes are available on YouTube, or the entire series is sold by any number of outlets. It is marvelous.

My purpose today is not to resurrect “Connections”, but to say that I was reminded of that series a couple of days back when I was reading an article about Charles Darwin.

When Darwin wrote “On the Origin of Species”, his idea was not a theory scientifically, rather it was a hypothesis. One of the most amazing aspects of Darwin’s work was his ability to formulate complex conclusions from a series of seemingly unconnected finds and observations.

Since Darwin’s death of course literally hundreds of thousands of independent observations, experiments, and discoveries have confirmed his hypothesis, and today Evolution via Natural Selection (and probably a handful of other triggers) is accepted fact in the scientific community.
Perhaps the most telling evidence in support of Evolution is that found in genetics – the study of DNA, genes, and how all living things are both linked and differentiated by the code written inside every cell. Which brings me back to my “Connections” theme.

Darwin’s last scientific publication was written a mere two weeks before his death, a short paper about a tiny freshwater clam that lived on the leg of a water beetle in the ponds around his home in the English Midlands.

The man who found the beetle and sent it to Darwin was a young shoemaker and amateur naturalist named Walter Drawbridge Crick. And now for the connection:

The young shoemaker eventually married and had a son named Harry who, much later in turn, married and produced a son of his own named Francis.  Need I continue?

In 1953 it was this grandson of the shoemaker/naturalist who, together with James Watson, unraveled the mystery of DNA and the double helix, thus giving birth to the science that has erased any possible remaining serious doubts about Darwin’s work in “Origins”.

Now is that neat, or what?