The God of the Gaps by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson explains how, for hundreds of years, gods have been invoked whenever we reach the edges of our knowledge.

Carl Sagan: A Universe Not Made for Us

In this lovely video, the late Carl Sagan muses on our concept of the Universe and our place in it.

Anthropic principle FAIL

The anthropic principle says that SOMEONE made the world, nay, the universe, just for us. Therefore God.

I go with the mud-puddle theory: a puddle thinks that the contours of the ground holding it are perfectly tuned just for it.

We’re shaped for our environment, not the other way around. If conditions were different, we’d be different. If we were sulphur-based instead of carbon-based life, we’d be pointing to the temperatures that are just right for sulphur biochemistry. And if the environment were too different, we wouldn’t be around to complain about its lack of suitability. It’s a crock, and not of gold.

Posted in religion. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Life as a thinking person

Jadehawk has some good comments about A. C. Grayling’s philosophy, in her wrap-up of the Copenhagen Atheists’ Conference. Grayling suggests that we work to build a skeptical, rational, secular framework for ethics based, I imagine, on empathy and fairness. She writes:

He talked about atheism as more than just the disbelief in deities; rather, he talked about it as part of a secular/skeptical/rational ethical framework. The first time I encountered this idea was in a completely different context: a video by Greta Cristina about secular sexual ethics, which boiled down to “we don’t need to accept authoritarian morality/ethics, because there’s no super-being above us; instead, we’re free to construct sexual ethics based on a rational view that focuses on consent and human needs”. AC Grayling’s talk was a broader, wider applicable version of this: making rationality and skeptical thinking the basis for a person’s (and a community’s) entire moral and ethical framework in all situations. And certainly, such a framework is sorely needed, since even atheists and skeptics usually function within the already-present religion-based frameworks, merely with minor modifications.

Read the whole article for more about Grayling’s talk and about Lone Frank’s talk about brains and religion and Richard Wiseman’s talk about luck and personal narratives as well.

God and free will

jealous god

God says do what you wish, but make the wrong choice and you will be tortured for eternity in hell. That sir, is not free will. It would be akin to a man telling his girlfriend, do what you wish, but if you choose to leave me, I will track you down and blow your brains out. When a man says this we call him a psychopath and cry out for his imprisonment/execution. When god says the same we call him “loving” and build churches in his honor.

William C. Easttom II, skeptic at icon dot net

Religion used in rhetoric

Jason Rosenhouse has a good point in “Why Creationists Shouldn’t Do Logic”:

God-based morality only seems to come out when religious folks are trying to argue that X is immoral even though X has no obvious harmful consequences (or, perhaps, beneficial consequences). Gay marriage and embryonic stem-cell research are good cases in point. The statement, “X is wrong because it is against the will of God,” is the rhetorical equivalent of, “I’ve got nothing.

The same for “against nature”: nature never filed a complaint. In other words…

There's no one there

There's no one there

Pat Condell: “Free speech is sacred”

Hat tip to PZ Myers for “Pat Condell doesn’t hold back.”

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bzTA_D5NpU]

Chris Clarke’s open letter

Chris Clarke’s open letter to the progressive blogosphere from 2007 seems just as apt today:

It’s a fine thing to slam someone for writing something you find offensive. It’s another thing to slam someone for not writing something they way you would have, or for writing about a subject other than the one you think they ought to have picked. It’s a fine thing to criticize someone moderating comments on their blog in a way you don’t agree with, but it’s another to slam someone for not moderating comments on their blog 24/7. It’s a fine thing to decide that your blog has a specific mission. It’s another to decide that your blog’s mission is the only mission any blog should have.

In short, it’s one thing for you to be disappointed in or angered by bloggers with whom you share some political viewpoints. It’s another to assume they owe you anything other than basic human respect because you’ve done them the favor of reading their work.

It reminds me of some people slamming others not for rejecting science and the scientific method, but for speculating that it’s possible there might be an Ultimate Cause behind it all. I’m looking at you, PZ! We keep saying that we’re separating Methodological Naturalism from Philosphical Naturalism. Let’s do it. Let people who feel the chill winds between the stars keep their metaphorical fig-leaf.

Chris’s whole letter is instructive. He makes quite a few points that I’d like to see added to the Guide to the Intertubes or, better yet, the Guide to Public Discourse:

balance between competing interests is important. Explaining that jokes are jokes will help the pathologically humorless avoid embarrassment, but it ruins the jokes for everyone else. Saying that every time one discusses a bad thing, one is obliged to point out that it is a bad thing, and that bad things are bad, and that failure to point this out every single time is an offense punishable by witch hunt, firing, ostracism and the like? Fuck that noise.

Heh. Reminds me of the furor over Randy Newman’s satirical song, “Short People.”

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