October 16, 2009

Falsifiability and the Argument Regarding Design

Posted in Answering Apologists, Science, The Universe tagged , , , at 10:26 am by Andrew

Conceptually, I think the Argument Regarding Design — the notion that something must have created this wondrous universe that displays such complexity is bogus on basically every level, from the incorrect factual premise to the unsubstantiated conclusion. I set forth a lot of those arguments in my article “The Heavens Do Not Declare The Glory of God.”

One of the arguments I’ve made only by implication in that article is the falsifiability argument; namely, that the Argument Regarding Design is empty as a hypothesis, because any state of the universe could be offered as “evidence” for the hypothesis. So, for example, many apologists argue that the narrow band for various cosmological constants is evidence that the universe is “finely tuned” so as to permit human life.
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October 7, 2009

The Final Word on Einstein’s “God”

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Science tagged , at 4:00 pm by Andrew

Since the pernicious rumor that Einstein was a theist continues to make its way across the Internet, just keep in mind Einstein’s actual, final words on the subject:

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.

Einstein may have been right (or wrong); I cite his words here not as evidence for atheism, but because so many Christians continue to insist that Einstein was in some way a theist.

October 2, 2009

Richard Dawkins’ Appearance on the Colbert Report

Posted in Atheism, humor, Science at 2:35 pm by Andrew

Dawkins was on Colbert the other night, and although the appearance went pretty much as I expected, I thought there were two pretty noteworthy moments.

First, Dawkins came on to the show wearing a custom “crocoduck” tie, after the nonsense strawman argument against evolution peddled by our Way-of-the-Master friends Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort. (“If evolution is real,” Cameron asks, “then why don’t we see any transitional fossils?“) And by “transitional fossils,” Cameron doesn’t mean actual transitional fossils, but nonsensical fuzors, such as the half-crocodile, half-duck “crocoduck.” See how cute he is?

The Way of the Master "crocoduck"

The Way of the Master "crocoduck"

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October 1, 2009

New Feathered Dinosaur Found

Posted in Science tagged , , , at 2:44 pm by Andrew

Very cool! Click here to read about Anchiornis huxleyi, the newest feathered dinosaur to be found in China:

Anchiornis huxleyi

With each new find, we learn more about the dinosaur-bird transition.

May 21, 2009

Darwinus masillae

Posted in Science tagged , at 2:51 pm by Andrew

Everything you need to know about Darwinus masillae, the new primate fossil released yesterday.

EDIT: Deleted inaccurate reference to hominid.

May 20, 2009

The Break of the Curveball

Posted in Baseball, Law, Science, Worldview tagged , , , , at 12:34 pm by Andrew

When delving into presuppositional arguments (or the Argument from Reason, or other claims by Christians in support of mind-brain dualism), I’ll often point out that the brain we have is not cognitively reliable in precisely the sort of ways you would expect given evolution — e.g., things like Alien Hand Syndrome, optical illusions, and so on.

Thanks to Stephanie, I’ve now found the single best illustration I’ve ever seen of the way in which our brain can be fooled: the break of the curveball in baseball.

Those of us who threw curveballs know the fundamental dilemma: a classic, Blylevenesque “12-to-6” curveball appears to break much more sharply than it actually does. Part of the work of the “break” is accomplished by downward spin, and part of it is accomplished by optical illusion.

If you follow this link, you’ll see the optical illusion portion of the curveball’s break illustrated vividly. Watch the path of the spinning ball, and you can see that it travels in a straight line. Shift your focus to the blue spot, and the ball seems to be curving away from you at a drastic angle. It’s eerie!

The authors conclude:

In baseball, a curveball creates a physical effect and a perceptual puzzle. The physical effect (the curve) arises because the ball’s rotation leads to a deflection in the ball’s path. The perceptual puzzle arises because the deflection is actually gradual but is often perceived as an abrupt change in direction (the break). Our illusions suggest that the perceived “break” may be caused by the transition from the central visual system to the peripheral visual system. Like a curveball, the spinning disks in the illusions appear to abruptly change direction when an observer switches from foveal to peripheral viewing.

Just another datapoint in support of the view that our cognitive faculties are the unreliable, cobbled-together product of millions of years of evolution of the physical brain, and not some disembodied mind crafted by an almighty God.

April 27, 2009

“Evangelical” Atheism (or: Hey, Steve, You’re Not Helping!)

Posted in Atheism, Personal Experiences, Science, The Universe, Worldview tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:55 am by Andrew

Okay, this one is a real head-scratcher. A self-help guru (“Steve Pavlina,” not that I’ve ever heard of him) has posted his personal guide, “How to Graduate From Christianity.”

Ugh. Hey, Steve: you’re not helping! After the jump, I tackle Steve’s misguided notions of “graduating” from Christianity and defend my own vision of “evangelical” atheism.
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April 17, 2009

A Very Nice Layperson’s Explanation of Recent Human Evolution

Posted in Science tagged , , , at 9:36 am by Andrew

Check out BoingBoing’s explanation of Ken Miller’s talk on chromosome fusion, which provides powerful confirmation of the shared ancestry between humans and apes.

One nit with the article: the author uses the term “chromosome” to mean “pair of chromosomes.” The fusion Miller describes occurred in pair 2, so humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 total) and apes have 24.

April 15, 2009

Video Refutation of the “Fine Tuning” Argument

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Science tagged , , , , at 2:00 pm by Andrew

Most of you have probably seen YouTube user “Thunderf00t‘s” excellent series, “Why People Laugh at Creationists.” (If not, you should.)

Part 10 of that series nicely responds to the Fine Tuning argument as advanced by the Discovery Institute in “The Privileged Planet” (the first clip) and Lee Strobel’s video “The Case For A Creator” (second clip). Here it is:

(After a brief interlude to smack down Kent Hovind — which is a bit too much like kicking a wounded puppy for my tastes — the response continues with part thirteen.)

April 10, 2009

Hitchens v. Strobel, Craig, et al.

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Debates, Interviews, Science tagged , , , , , , , at 3:19 pm by Andrew

Courtesy of the Christian Booksellers’ Association, and it’s a fair summary of the common apologetic arguments and the way in which they fall on atheistic ears.

I continue to be stumped — even angry — when the supposed “leading lights” of the Christian apologetics movements (Strobel, Craig) can repeat obvious scientific falsehoods with a straight face. Make whatever argument you want, but when you stand in front of several hundred people and affirm that “information in DNA requires an intelligent source,” you are spouting nonsense at best and outright lies at worst. I’m shocked more Christians don’t disavow these sorts of tactics.

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