Quoting Robert G. Ingersoll

Robert G. Ingersoll, The Gods, 1872:

Looks like Christopher Hitchens

A very pious friend of mine, having heard that I had said the world was full of imperfections, asked me if the report was true. Upon being informed that it was, he expressed great surprise that any one could be guilty of such presumption. He said that, in his judgement, it was impossible to point out an imperfection “Be kind enough,” said he, “to name even one improvement that you could make, if you had the power.” “Well,” said I, “I would make good health catching, instead of disease.” The truth is, it is impossible to harmonize all the ills, and pains, and agonies of this world with the idea that we were created by, and are watched over and protected by an infinitely wise, powerful and beneficent God, who is superior to and independent of nature.

Ovenless in Seattle

This appears to be working! I’ll have to try it one day!

trays of cookies baking on the dashboard of a closed car, seen through the windshield

Albert Schweitzer on Jesus

“There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the Life of Jesus. The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth and died to give His work its final consecration never had any existence.”

From Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965, Nobel Prize 1952), Ph.D, Christian theologian and Dean of the Theological College of Saint Thomas at the University of Strasburg; The Quest of the Historical Jesus: First Complete Edition, translated by W. Montgomery et al., edited by John Bowden (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), page 478.

Whence the vitriol?

At the Center for Inquiry conference, skeptic Rebecca Watson, of the Skepchick blog, commented on someone else’s critique of her reaction to the Elevator Incident, which was, “Guys, don’t do that”—hardly inflamatory.

I have seen people write that Rebecca Watson insulted the blogger who had named her and criticized her reaction, and whose whose comment her she dissected.

She named her, a writer who had already publicly associated herself with the discussion. She “insulted” her. And yet “ignorant of a certain subject” is a description, not an insult? Rebecca Watson didn’t insult the person who had already publicly called her out by name, who pointed out that the writer was ignorant of sexism as it exists now and that she had absorbed a lot of misogynistic ideas. Both conditions are fairly common in young women who have been sheltered in a fairly egalitarian educational system and immersed in popular culture. And any young woman who showed a spark of feminism would be showered with disincentives–case in point: Rebecca Watson. Young women are likely disavow feminism as unfeminine, at least until they get older and wiser.

So, there wasn’t any insult. The writer of the critical blog post was there and could respond during question period if she so chose.

Now, can anyone explain the 8-week storm of insults, accusations, and threats—not reasoned arguments and counter-examples—that has been hurled at our clear-thinking feminist?

Einstein on God

Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, “God doesn’t play dice with the universe,” as if that meant that he believed in an invisible Heavenly Father taking an interest in our affairs. This longer quotation reflects his actual opinion.

You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a religious feeling of his own. But it is different from the religiosity of the naive man. For the latter, God is a being from whose care one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one fears; a sublimation of a feeling similar to that of a child for its father, a being to whom one stands, so to speak, in a personal relation, however deeply it may be tinged with awe. But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation There is nothing divine about morality; it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection… It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages. —Albert Einstein, Mein Weltbild, Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, 1934

The Visible Earth, courtesy of NASA

Check out the Visible Earth collection of satellite images and map projections, created by scientists from NASA and around the world.

How much is a centi-Dembski?

You may Have seen William Dembsk’s assertion, or repeated it, that he has proved that natural selection working on random chance is not an efficient way of generating mutations or that it’s less efficient than random chance alone. This somewhat nonsensical conclusion was supposedly proved by a computer program written by Dembski and Robert J. Marks. They put up an essay, “The Unacknowledged Costs of Evolution,” criticizing an evolutionary program called ev,  on an unofficial web page.  Unfortunately, obvious errors in basic computing make their results invalid.  The errors were such that the program would never find a solution, such as filling a table with 1’s and then randomly changing some of the cells to 1’s and waiting for some zeroes to appear. With programming skills like those, they would wait forever. And then they used the wrong size of matrix, compounding their error.

Wesley R. Elsberry has the details in an article called  “Unacknowledged Errors in ‘The Unacknowledged Costs’” over on the Panda’s Thumb. It covers who was able to find the errors and why,  what they wrote to the authors, what they did or didn’t do in response, what has happened when other errors were pointed out, and so on. In the badinage of the comments the standard size of a Dembski error was discussed and 65 orders of magnitude was calculated. That’s 1 followed by 65 zeroes.  Someone else pointed out that creationists, in taking the age of the earth to be 6,000 years instead of 14 billion, were only 63 orders of magnitude off target–a centi-Dembski!

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