Archive for category Atheism

Let’s talk Evidence.

One of the common aphorisms we hear in two varieties is, first form, “absence of evidence is evidence of absence”, and second form, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Either statement seems to make sense on its face; but this is because of a common misunderstanding. In truth, only one form actually works for us within the bounds of reason.
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The KD0BCF de KC0OW show on 3843 KHz

For my ham and SWL readers, I just wanted to point out a fun little thing that’s been going on for a while. KD0BCF, Tom, an atheist, and Scott, KC0OW, a christian, have been going at it, more or less politely, for some time now. I first ran into them SWL’ing the 75 meter ham band, and now I actively look for them, and if I find they’re on, I leave the dial right there.

Scott’s a lawyer, and you can tell that this forms the root of his arguing skills. Tom pretty much has Scott for lunch, or at least he has the times I’ve tuned in, but Scott’s ability to duck and cover and evade is right up there with some of the best I’ve seen. He also, it has to be said, appears to be very secure in his faith.

Both fellows are quite intelligent, and the tone of the rhetoric is generally well above what you’d expect for this kind of interaction, especially one that’s been going on this long. Kudos to both of them for keeping it mostly polite and cheery.

Subjects covered include religion (of course), politics, world events, fundamentalist broadcasts, Israel, Islam, etc.

A highly recommended little chunk of the SWL/ham experience. :)

On Animal Testing

devotionAnimals – with great certainty, mammals like cats, dogs, monkeys, pigs and so on – are conscious, feeling beings. Only the least intelligent human, or one completely unfamiliar with the company of animals, can argue otherwise with a straight face. Animals use language, tools and create domiciles; they express emotion, they will sacrifice themselves for their offspring, and they can learn.

They, in many ways similar to human babies, are unable, for lack of sophistication, to consent to risk taking. They don’t have the potential to turn into the kind of advanced being a human baby does; nonetheless, they do think, they do feel, they do suffer. As any human with any reasonable degree of insight can tell you, imposed suffering without any degree of understanding why leads directly to even more suffering and deeper fear. Therefore, it is wholly unethical to subject them to risk (or certainty) of suffering via coercion; further, it is selfish and cowardly to do so for the benefit of yourself or those you value.

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It isn't straight-up stupidity. It's more like this:

CogFail2

By fear of the unknown, I mean literally someone who is uncomfortable with ideas like “we don’t have an answer for that”; you can apply it to questions like “What happens to our thinking self when we die?”, “Did the universe always exist?” and even “Does anyone really care for me?”

With regard to ignorance, I’m basically suggesting a lack of data; either because it hasn’t been looked for, it was looked for and not understood, or one has been outright misinformed. But it goes beyond this, and that’s where gullibility comes in. Gullibility is that error of cognition that accepts weak (or non-existent) data as sufficient to making a case.

Weak critical thinking skills, as used here, is a summary description of the inability to look at what one actually knows, clearly discriminate it from what one imagines or wishes might be so, and only draw decisive conclusions from the best possible information.

I don’t mean to suggest that the above is precisely correct; only that it is approximately or generally so. No doubt there may be more than three contributing cognitive failure modes, and more than one intersection that could be characterized as a “perfect victim.” My goal here is simply to get the idea across that belief in the unprovable, or even the incorrect, isn’t a consequence of simple stupidity.

Feel free to disagree, of course.

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The Ring of Truth

I’ve always had a fondness for the concise and pithy; Today, I thought I’d share some of my favorites.

  • Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; all of which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, even if religion vanished; but religious superstition dismounts all these and erects an absolute monarchy in the minds of men.

    Sir Francis Bacon

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Why Superstition?

Most people fear the unknown, even when it doesn’t appear to threaten them directly, so they regularly seek quite specific answers to unanswerable questions.

Other people recognize and then take advantage of those fears, and consequently we have organized and codified superstition, bigfoot, and UFOs. Religions are just specific forms of well organized and codified superstition.

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On the Genesis of the New Testament

The New Testament was originally written, or so the current scholarly consensus goes, in Greek. This was the common language of scholars of that day and age, much as English is quite often used by scholars now. The authors of the various testaments and epistles, however, likely spoke in Aramaic; bearing witness to this are the quotations attributed to Jesus Christ (such as “Eli, eli, lama sabachthani”, which is “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, in Matthew 27:46). There is little question among scholars today that the New Testament was written in Greek, although a few dissenters assert that some portions were written in Aramaic. I would simply point out that since no one has any of the original documents, these arguments appear somewhat academic at this time.

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