April 29, 2009

Francis Collins, Creationist

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Creationism tagged , , , , , at 3:00 pm by Andrew

Many atheists are familiar with the conversion story of the brilliant geneticist Francis Collins; if not, here’s a recap:

Nobody gets argued all the way into becoming a believer on the sheer basis of logic and reason. That requires a leap of faith. And that leap of faith seemed very scary to me. After I had struggled with this for a couple of years, I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains on a beautiful fall afternoon. I turned the corner and saw in front of me this frozen waterfall, a couple of hundred feet high. Actually, a waterfall that had three parts to it — also the symbolic three in one. At that moment, I felt my resistance leave me. And it was a great sense of relief. The next morning, in the dewy grass in the shadow of the Cascades, I fell on my knees and accepted this truth — that God is God, that Christ is his son and that I am giving my life to that belief.

[emphasis added]

Okay, got that? Collins tells us that (a) he was not “argued all the way” into becoming a believer on the basis of evidence, but rather that (b) his personal experiences changed his mind.

Now — as I’ve said elsewhere on this site — I can’t argue with that. Personally, I don’t think I would have had the same reaction to what strikes me as a relatively ordinary experience, but I can’t second-guess Dr. Collins’ personal motivations and conclusions. If he wants to do good science with one part of his brain and accept Jesus with another, so be it; that’s a concession that atheism is a rational response to the world.

But Dr. Collins doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t leave faith as a personal experience, to be divined from a tripartite waterfall or the equivalent; no, he’s got a new apologetic website in which he attempts to “argue all the way” to Jesus. Worse, on that site, Dr. Collins deliberately attempts to use his legitimate and unimpeachable scientific credentials in one field (genetics) to buttress standard schlock creationist arguments in an entirely different field in which he has no expertise whatsoever (astrophysics). This is standard creationist stock in trade, but it’s disheartening to see Collins using the same sleazy tactics.

Think I’m overstating the case? Here, let Collins speak for himself:

There is a law of physics called the Second Law of Thermodynamics that states an isolated system’s entropy can never decrease, it can only increase or stay the same. In other words, all changes in isolated systems lead to states of higher disorder. Therefore, the same must be true of our entire universe. However, it is also known that the formation of stars and galaxies, essential for the development of life on Earth, requires a high degree of order. This implies that the universe was once much more ordered than it is now, and therefore it began with a very low entropy.

No serious astrophysicist would write something that stupid. First, entropy is not really about ‘order’ in the cosmological sense; second, stellar formation is really well-understood (and not threatened at all by the increasing entropy of the universe), and third, the Big Bang model postulates the lowest possible initial entropy of the universe in any event.

In his apologetics, Collins protests that he is neither an ID creationist or a Biblical creationist. Why, then, is Collins peddling a classic ID creationist argument; one that has been debunked for over a decade (including Penrose’s garbage probability calculations)? And notice that when it comes to his own field, genetics, Collins ably refutes the creationists. But he rips a page from their playbook when he pretends to be an astrophysicist and regurgitates stuff you’d find at Answers in Genesis.

I don’t begrude Dr. Collins his personal beliefs; if he wants to be a Christian, that’s his business. But I do wish he’d honor his own reasons and leave it up to the personal experiences of others to affirm or reject, and I really wish he hadn’t crawled into bed with the tactics of the sleaziest creationists in peddling thorough-going dishonest, misleading nonsense.

HT: Pharyngula, of course.

April 28, 2009

A Modest Victory

Posted in Atheism, Creationism, Law tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:02 pm by Andrew

In the ongoing saga over the ICR’s ridiculous, ill-founded, written-in-crayon lawsuit against the THECB, we’ve won a tiny little victory, at least.

The ICR’s moronic press release has been taken down from the front page of their website and deleted from their news archive.

You can still access the article from the direct url — for now. But there doesn’t seem to be any other way to find it. It looks like the ICR follows the Uncommon Descent “down the memory hole” philosophy of dealing with embarrassing facts.

(Note that the lawsuit press release has a permalink number of 4598, which should place it in between the story about how retinal coordination is a “Picture Perfect Presentation of Design” and “Chimp Study Reveals Humans Are Uniquely Wired.” But I’m sure that the ICR folks just had to get up that timely refutation of Neil Shubin’s 2008 book. Incidentally, if you haven’t read Your Inner Fish, you should click on that link and order it.)

I’m sure that this site sending ICR nearly 6,000 hits since last Friday had nothing to do with this decision…. 🙂

So pat yourselves on the backs, guys. And go help PZ win an iPod Touch from creationist Eric “Baby Dr. Dino” Hovind.

April 23, 2009

Welcome, Pharyngulites!

Posted in Atheism, Personal tagged , , , at 10:35 am by Andrew

In addition to my evaluation of the ICR’s recent lawsuit to which PZ linked, hopefully you’ll stick around and find some other posts of interest. Here’s a sample to get you started.

In addition to being a lawyer, I’m a former debate coach, and I wrote a three-part series on advice for atheists who want to debate William Lane Craig: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

I’ve also weighed in on the Matt Dillahunty-Matt Slick pseudo-debate over the Transcendental Argument for God and presuppositionalism generally: Part 1; Part 2; and Part 3.

I think I give a pretty unique atheist’s take on the argument from morality here.

I evaluate the so-called “minimal facts” model for the Resurrection here.

My personal story of “Why I Am Not A Christian” (to borrow a phrase) begins here.

Enjoy!

April 17, 2009

I’m Sure I Just Missed….

Posted in Atheism, Personal tagged , , , at 3:54 pm by Andrew

The website “brainz.org” has posted their list of The 50 Most Brilliant Atheists of All Time.

(It’s okay; I didn’t make the list of the 100 Greatest Metal Bands of All Time, either. And I wouldn’t have put either Ayn Rand or Korn on either list.)

HT: Pharyngula.

February 24, 2009

PZ Myers on Bill Maher’s Religulous

Posted in Atheism tagged , , at 12:05 pm by Andrew

A perhaps surprising review of Religulous from the net’s most notorious atheist:

I did finally see Religulous a few days ago, and I confess to being a bit disappointed. It consisted of a series of short interviews with, for instance, truckers at a truck stop chapel, Catholic priests, an “ex-gay” minister, a Muslim rapper, etc., and it was all capped with excellent and scathing monologue that strongly criticized religion. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, and there were some funny bits, but something nagged at me throughout, and only when I saw the conclusion did I realize what it was.

Maher cheated. He had a clear idea of what his opinion was, but he wasn’t sharing it with the people he was interviewing. They were left to flounder and make poor arguments in part because there are no good arguments for religion, but also because they were left in the dark about what they were arguing against. It may be funny, but it’s no fair; contrast that with the Dawkins’ documentaries on religion, which are less funny, but more honest, because the people on camera know (or should know) exactly what they are wrestling with.

A better Religulous would have recorded the closing monolog first, and sent that to each of the potential interviewees with a note saying, “Here’s my position. Are you willing to argue against it on camera?” That would have made for a much more interesting movie, and Maher would have had to break a sweat to address criticisms…and it would probably be less funny. There’s a reason Maher wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, and I think it’s because his documentary took no risks, and didn’t probe very deeply.

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