What they or I meant by ‘absolute truth’

It seems that whenever a creationist doesn’t understand something I said, they immediately accuse me of lying. It could never be that I’m mistaken, or that they simply don’t agree; I have to be deliberately attempting to deceive someone.

As if.

Religious people have every motivation to lie, not just because they believe something that isn’t true, but because their faith requires that they defend that belief even when they know it’s not true, and I can show plenty of references to where believers have admitted that.

I have no motivation to lie, and every reason not to.  My position depends on truth, because science seeks to improve understanding, and the only way to do that is by correcting errors -including my own- if anyone can point one out to me. Once that happens, and they show me my mistake, I thank them and carry on correctly.  That has happened many times in my life.  However this is NOT one of those occasions.

The ‘most blatant error’ this guy points out is where he dices my comment in order to remove the explanation, and where he completely misunderstood what I said.

Which brings us to the third foundational falsehood of creationism; the assertion that any human’s understanding of their various internally-conflicting and inter-contradictory beliefs should, -or even could- be considered infallible or inherently accurate. 

In reality, there is no such thing as “absolute truth”, [because] everything within the capacity of human understanding contains a degree of error, and everything men know to be true is only true to a degree.  Everyone is inevitably wrong about something somewhere.  We don’t know everything about everything.  We don’t know everything about anything!  And what we do know, we don’t know accurately on all points nor completely in every detail.  Honest men admit this.  Anyone claiming to know the absolute truth is not being honest, especially not when they claim to know anything about things which can only be believed on faith.  Even if men were given genuine revelations by truly omniscient beings, they must still be filtered and interpreted by weaker minds influenced by our limitations, biases, and misimpressions, as well as linguistic and cultural barriers.
In the history of history itself, no account human journalists have ever given has been absolutely complete, inerrant, and perfectly accurate…..

The bolded lines are the ones he mined.  See how it means something different when you keep them in context?

Now, granted I did not say ‘because’ in the original video. I didn’t think I had to. I thought it was pretty obvious that I took ‘absolute truth’ to mean essentially the same thing as a perfectly complete knowledge. I guess I was trying to be philosophical, looking for the deepest possible meaning of ‘truth’. What I meant, (and I admit that I didn’t say this as clearly as it seems I should have) is the limits of human understanding are such that our knowledge will never be perfect enough to be called ‘absolute’.

However in November of 2011, I was in a debate with Pastor Bob Enyart, and he pressed me on this same point -making the exact same argument.  It quickly became obvious in the course of our discussion that he wasn’t using so lofty a definition as I was. So I asked him to clarify.  Turns out, all he thought -and all ANY apologist thought- that ‘absolute truth’ meant was whether we could know anything for certain.  That’s it!

It was so simple!  Here I was playing way beyond their game and having to repeatedly re-explain the quoted paragraph for every newbe-leaver who saw the 3rd Foundational Falsehood of Creationism.  When I found out how utterly basic the theists’ definition was during that debate, I remember saying, “I wish I knew that before”!

So later on, when I met Eric Hovind at the Reason Rally, he immediately asked me whether we could know anything for certain, and I said “yes”.  Later he tried to say that I actually said ‘no’, but he kept the video available online. So people will know better. The point is that if I had met him back when I made the 3rd FFoC, and he had asked me whether I believed that humans could claim knowledge of absolute truth, I would have given the opposite answer.

But since this guy brought it up. Yes, there are some things we can and do know for certain. The testable and verifiable fact that the Bible is wrong -about ‘the flood’, about the Tower of Babel, the firmament, the Garden of Eden, and a host of other things, is a matter of scientific certainty. Through an independent international consensus analysis of overwhelming evidence by expert specialists in every relevant field, regardless of religion, we can know that certain elements of the Bible’s fables have been conclusively disproved beyond redemption.  Even though we don’t know absolutely everything, and we don’t know anything in completely flawless detail, we do still know that much for absolutely certain. Your man-made mythology is wrong. Sorry. Get over it.

Micro vs Macro – The Creationist’s Selective Acceptance

Last week I did a special after-show recording with David Smalley & Rachel Nanon Brown for the “4th Listeners” about micro-evolution vs macro-evolution on Dogma Debate. I was helping them prep for a Christian who will be joining them next week when I can’t be there.  This guy says he accepts micro-evolution, but claims that “macro-evolution has no concrete evidence.” That is so irritating.  So in the after show, I help prep Rachel for the typical creationist distortions and non-definitions they use to avoid admitting that macroevolution has been confirmed just as solidly as microevolution. Getting them to understand that is easy.  Getting them to admit it on the air is another matter.
This talk between Rachel and I is exclusive for members of the site, but once you’re a member you get behind-the-scenes access to our in-studio web cam, forums, live chat, and other stuff from the Dogma Debate radio show.
We make this kind of extra-special content as a “thank you” for those loyal listeners that support the show with $5/mo – and help us bring more shows (and more behind-the-scenes access) week after week.
If you want to hear our off-air discussion on micro vs macro (and many more like this), and join up, we’d love to have you as part of the family so we can get your feedback on the forums, share our videos, and chat with you live during the show. You can join us here: http://login.dogmadebate.com

Mawage

I can understand how some people think that life had an intelligent designer, because life is intricate, delicate, complex and amazing. But I don’t understand how anyone could look at the Bible and think that it had an intelligent designer, because the Bible is a jumbled clusterfuck of atrocious stupidity.

For example, I hear an awful lot about how “God” [the Bible] defines a ‘proper’ marriage, and I have to point out that the Bible doesn’t define marriage the way the Religious Right wants to believe it does.

Today I have the honor of officiating another wedding. This will be the 3rd such ceremony I have performed. All three have been heterosexual couples, one man and one woman. I’m OK with doing gay weddings too. I especially look forward to lesbians kissing at the end.  But so far no one has ever asked me to conduct a marriage the way the Bible defines it; between one man and several dozen head of suppressed human cows.

The Bible doesn’t require that the man limit himself only to a bevy of wives -even though they all have to patiently wait their turns with him; the man may also capture under-aged prisoners of war and enslave them for sexual purposes. He may also rape any of the female slaves belonging to any of his wives, though his wives don’t have the right to enjoy their own slaves the same way he can. The wives can’t even play mistress to their male slaves. To prevent this, male slaves might have to have their male-ness rendered inoperable or absent. Some interpretations require surgical procedures for the wives too -just to prevent them from being able to enjoy what only men are allowed to enjoy. Double-standards apply because the wives are just women and therefore not awarded equal rights or status under God’s infinitely infallible and infinitely just misogynistic laws promoting slavery, genital mutilation, and the molestation of minors.

In addition to his dozens of forcibly frustrated monogamous wives and all his assorted sex slaves, the Bible also permits that the man may have any number of concubines; those are essentially sexual pets that the man gets to keep on the side and use how he pleases whenever he wants regardless how any of his many wives feel about that.  But concubines are also expendable, because he owes no legal or financial obligation to them -even if they bare his children. They are Commitment-free live-in adulteresses readily available for in-home fornication (whenever the man can find an extra minute or ounce of remaining energy) and these are made legal by an invisible loophole in religious law. Gotta have a few concubines around the house too, right? You can’t have too many submissive yet unsatisfied sexual receptacles, right?

How dare these religious fundamentalist fuckwits pretend to preserve the ‘sanctity’ of marriage “as the Bible defines it”.

Can we agree that an education is a basic human right?

In an information based society, undereducated children are at a disadvantage. Besides a mind is a terrible thing to waste, right? Here is my speech at The Houston Museum of Science hosted by Houston Atheists in defense of accurate science education for everyone. It had a pretty good turnout of 250 which was the capacity of the room.

It was part of a weekend of anti-creationism activities as a result of Ken Ham’s bullying and obdurate determination to sell creationism as science curriculum. At a creationism conference the same weekend, he boasted to 600 people that we had gathered only a handful of supporters. As if he had gathered even 6 billion people that would make him right. He mocked me to the crowd and they had a laugh at my expense.

Despite that, I’ve come a long way in my fear of public speaking. It is important to speak out against scientific illiteracy.

Underneath it’s all the same love

I was surprised to hear a powerful song on mainstream radio about LGBT rights for one thing. But then the song is also openly anti-religious too. When I thought about it how can a song about how harsh the world is to LGBT people be anything but anti-religious in order to speak the truth?

The steady stream of hate coming from the pulpits turns more people away from the church than any advocate of atheism ever could.

Same Love Lyrics
by Macklemore (bold emphasis mine)
[Verse 1: Macklemore] When I was in the 3rd grade
I thought that I was gay
Cause I could draw, my uncle was
And I kept my room straight
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like, “Ben you’ve loved girls since
before pre-K”
Trippin’, yeah, I guess she had a point,
didn’t she
A bunch of stereotypes all in my head
I remember doing the math like
“Yeah, I’m good a little league”
A pre-conceived idea of what it all meant
For those who like the same sex had the
characteristics
The right-wing conservatives think it’s a
decision
And you can be cured with some
treatment and religion Man-made, rewiring of a pre-disposition
Playing God
Ahh nah, here we go
America the brave
Still fears, what, we don’t know
And God loves all His children
Is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written
35 hundred years ago
I don’t know
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm [x4]
[Verse 2: Macklemore]
If I was gay
I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments
lately
“Man that’s gay”
Gets dropped on the daily We’ve become so numb to what we’re
sayin’
Our culture founded from oppression
Yeah, we don’t have acceptance for ‘em
Call each other faggots
Behind the keys of a message board
A word routed in hate
Yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from
religion
Gender and skin color
Complexion of your pigment
The same fight that lead people to walkouts and sit-ins

t’s human rights for everybody
There is no difference
Live on! And be yourself! When I was in church
They taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service
Those words aren’t anointed
And that Holy Water
That you soak in
Is then poisoned When everyone else
Is more comfortable
Remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans
That have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same
But that’s not important
No freedom ’til we’re equal
Damn right I support it
I don’t know
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm [x4]
[Verse 3: Macklemore] We press play
Don’t press pause
Progress, march on! With a veil over our eyes We turn our back on the cause
‘Till the day
That my uncles can be united by law
Kids are walkin’ around the hallway
Plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful
Someone would rather die
Than be who they are
And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law’s gonna change us We have to change us Whatever god you believe in We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm [x4]
[Outro: Mary Lambert]
Love is patient, love is kind
Love is patient (not cryin’ on Sundays)
Love is kind (not crying on Sundays) [x5]

Some Insights from Bridgett “Bria” Crutchfield and Alix Jules on being a Black atheist

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to Bridgett “Bria” Crutchfield and Alix Jules tell their stories about growing up in the black community which can be very religious and adjusting to the atheist community. Bridgett asked me during the discussion if I understood what they go through. For video link click on the title.

I am not satisfied with the answer I gave her. As a person of color, I do understand what it feels like to be the ethnic odd man out. Growing up in Texas, I went to an upper class high school where the majority of students were white. I was often mistaken for the only other person with Asian ancestry that anybody could tell from their appearance -the Japanese exchange student. A girl once whispered in homeroom class, “she’s Chinese”. Nevermind we had the same Germanic last name because I’m Eurasian. That fact escaped her notice.

Anyways, I was basically invisible at that school invisible except for the passing curiosity about whether I was an exchange student. Again, never mind my English was sometimes more fluent than many other native speakers. I’ve also had experiences in a lower class elementary school where my ethnicity caused more overt racism like hair pulling and mock Chinese taunting in the hallways. I could go weeks without speaking to another child. Even as a young woman, a woman at a cosmetic counter told me my acne was a reason races shouldn’t mix. More often people keep their ugly thoughts hidden away like fangs behind a polite smile. If you wanted insight into what it is like to sometimes be an ethnic outcast because of being bi-racial or what it is like to be a person that doesn’t neatly fit in anywhere; I would be the person to listen to.

However, I can’t really say that I totally get what it is like to be a Black atheist. The only people, who can say what that is like are Alix and Bridgett. I haven’t had to live through many of the things they are forced to endure. I can’t say that I have ever had security called on me at an atheist conference like Alix has at a conference he was speaking at! Asians are generally not profiled as security threats by racist white people simply for their phenotype.

Although that incident is ugly it is easier to identify than being politely ignored like Bridget shared in the discussion. She told us that often when she goes to atheist conferences no one speaks to her. Then after she finishes a speech more people notice her and start talking to her. (American Atheists convention Austin was an exception she said) Cultural awkwardness like I pointed out to her can’t explain all of this behavior. It should go without saying that we are all human beings at this conference and can relate on some level. And we are all atheists, for no god sakes!

Having listened to her tell her stories and Alix’s, I have a few pieces of the puzzle to understand what black atheists go through. I genuinely want Black atheists to feel welcome in our community. Most well meaning people want the same thing. If that is going to happen a whole lot of well meaning folks need to start being better listeners.

My friend and Nones co-host Shanon Nebo just happened to finish editing the discussion yesterday. Yesterday, I also happened to notice a kerfuffle between my facebook friends some of whom are real life friends. It seems that some people are criticizing Bria for becoming angry at an insensitive question from a white person during a speech given by Mandisa Thomas. One person even labeled Bria’s reaction as “cruel” and “inappropriate” and suggested that she had the intent of shaming the person.

I have to reserve final judgment until I see the video of what happened. However, the question as posed reeks of cultural insensitivity. Why ask Mandisa about what blacks are going to do about black on black crime? That topic is a racist talking point. Let me pose this question to people, who think this person was merely ignorant and not deserving of being dressed down for it.

If a gay atheist had the podium and an audience member asked them what homosexuals were going to do about AIDS and you were homosexual too would you not be livid as well?

Would you wait and compose a calm response on your blog later, or try to calmly educate this person later in the hallway?

Would anyone expect you to?

Or more likely, wouldn’t you be stunned at the inherent stereotyping in that question that is an oft repeated homophobic talking point?

Would your shock give way to shame in a place you had thought was a social haven from prejudicial cognitive biases?

Or maybe you didn’t think that, and thought this community still had strides to make before homosexuals truly feel welcome there? Just maybe that is why you were there in the first place because you hoped that you could break through the ice and people would see a fellow human being.  A fellow human being -not a person they had prejudged and decided they wouldn’t socialize with. Only to be reminded in front of the group that you are not a human being to be judged separately, but must somehow make valiant efforts to stop the unfair stereotypes that other people perceive about your minority community? The stuff you had heard your entire life. The same stuff you have had to bite back responding to for fear of reprisal such as a loss of your job. The stuff you have had to smile politely back to, as there was no other reaction that would remedy the situation.

Would the shame give way to anger?

After you struggled to calm down through another speech would you stand up in front of the group and set the record straight or let it drop?

Even without watching the video of what happened, it needs to be said that the atheist community is just going to have to do the work of actively listening to the stories of Black atheists if they want to understand what makes them feel welcome and unwelcome.

 

 

 

Arguing on Craig’s list

Someone sent me a link to an article on craigslist which I couldn’t help but reply to. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be any discussion forum that I can follow there, so I’ll re-post it here.
This article answers a previous post to this forum, one which included the following comment:

>”Evolution is accepted without question. Many say that the majority of the
>science world accepts it and only a moron would not endorse it. I heard one
>person speak and say that some animal evolved as though it is something
>normal and organic. I wonder why all these claim when not one person has
>seen any evolution take place. How can you so accept such a theory
>without question and yet you have never seen the goods?”

The answer is that we HAVE seen the goods.  Biological evolution is traceable through morphology with derived synapomorphies indicated in taxonomy, developmental biology, and chronologically concordant fossils in the geologic column. The hierarchy is also twin-nested in that it can be confirmed with genetic orthologues, essentially the same as running a simple paternity test.  That’s one of the reasons why evolution is exclusively and unanimously accepted by a global scientific consensus of independent expert specialists in all relevant fields. We know it works, we can show it works, we know how it works, and we can show how it worked in the past. With creationism, all we have are man-made mythologies and contradictory nonsense that never works on any level.

>”The question is when has anyone ever seen Evolution take place? When
>you can answer that question in a visual context then there would be no
>question. We have yet to see anyone one step forth and do so.”

Evolution is also directly observable. It is an inescapable fact of population mechanics long employed and exploited in agriculture -at the ‘micro-evolutionary’ level, (variation within species).  But even mAcroevolution (variation between species/speciation) has been directly observed and documented dozens of times both in the lab and in controlled conditions in the field.  I cite several of these events from peer-reviewed studies in my video on the 11th foundational falsehood of creationism.

Science never accepts anything ‘without question’, but questioning evolution gets answers, and we can easily prove those answers are correct.  The best minds of the modern day have posed testable and potentially falsifiable hypotheses and evolution is always vindicated.  For example, Darwin predicted that if his theory was correct, that there would be many transitions discovered in the fossil record. In my video on the 9th foundational falsehood of creationism, I show more than 300 definite transitions even according to the strictest definition of that word.

The first of Darwin’s predictions was that a bird would be found with unfused wing fingers.  Archaeopteryx was the first of many to be discovered which matched that prediction, and it was discovered while Darwin was still alive.  The predicted link that was still missing in his time was a morphological blend of human and chimpanzee traits. Australopithecus aferensis was the first of dozens of fossil hominines discovered since 1974 which bridge that gap.  Creationists argued that no such transitions would ever be found, and we’ve found all of them, including dinosaurs with ‘half-a-wing’ and turtles on the half shell or with no shell at all.  There are still some lineages that are missing key transitions, but apes to men, dinosaurs to birds, and the land-to-sea adaptations for ichthyosaurs and manatees are essentially complete. The transition to whales is well-understood now and only awaits one or two predicted stages to be confirmed.

>”Viruses that remain a Virus and Bacteria that remains a Bateria is not in
>any way evolution or anything meaningful to the evolution discussion.
>Evolution says one species changes into a whole nother one. Therefore
>this virus and bacteria argument is null and void. Further similar dna does
>not prove evolution you have to show that they changed from one species
>to another which no one has nor can anyone produce. All things continue
>as the Bible says ‘everything according to its kind’.

If you’re going to criticize one of the best-supported theories in all of science, it would be a good idea to know something about it before-hand. So I have included a link to lecture I recently gave at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on the fundamentals of evolution at the 9th grade educational level.
There is no such thing as a taxonomic or zoological ‘kind’. The creationist concept of baraminology is wrong, and the proof of that is in my video on the Phylogeny Challenge.
Evolution was never about ‘changes between kinds'; its an explanation of biodiversity from common ancestry.  That means that evolution never suggests -nor permits- that one organism ever gave birth to another fundamentally different one. Everything that ever evolved was just a modified version of whatever its ancestors were.  That is one of the laws of evolution.
Whoever wrote the original article which I now mean to address also accused Darwin of being racist. That poster also implicitly admitted never having read what Darwin actually said.  This is obvious as Darwin was clearly not racist.  He spoke out adamantly against the racism common in his day. He protested eugenics that were already going on in Australia before his time (and for which he was later blamed) and his books were banned and burned by Hitler, who was a creationist himself and rejected Darwinian theory outright.  I explain all this with specific citations in my video playlist on the Erroneous Association of Evolution and Racism:
In short, the previous poster has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about, and that’s why he’s dead wrong on every attempted point
.>”All civilizations point not to an evolutionary documentation but to one
>core truth. That Core truth being that there is god. Yes they have many
>stories but all the stories have one common denominator. That common
>denominator is not evolution but only that of god.”
Here I would like to refer to someone else’s videos, Dr. Alice Roberts.  She’s an anthropologist with a brilliant series on tracing human migrations. What her series conclusively proves is that Genesis is wrong about the garden of Eden, the global flood, and the tower of Babel.  None of these actually happened as the Bible describes, and yes this video series does actually prove that with an overlapping alignment of hard uncontested evidence. Enjoy:
Creationism has been continuously proven to be a vast collection of frauds and lies, not science. I explain that in the 13th foundational falsehood of creationism:
>”The closer the world gets to God and his will the less his problems will become.”
Sorry, but that’s not true either; quite the opposite in fact -as I explained in my speech on how ‘Religion Reverses Everything’.

I can’t believe I shook Eric Hovind’s hand

I also thanked him for being polite, while he interviewed the group. Evolution supporters had gathered to demonstrate in Houston against creationism being taught as science. I consented to Hovind interviewing me on the condition he didn’t cut the video. However, he weaseled out of his promise by posting the entire interview and then cutting my part of the interview in a separate video in such a way to make it look like I was saying something I wasn’t.

This is the cut interview (click on the title of this post if you can’t see the video links)…

He asked me if truth is the same as real or reality. I said I don’t know if truth equals real. He cut it there before I explained that truth is an umbrella term meaning it can’t be simply interchanged with the term real. He then added a part where I said that I am a science teacher.

This is the full interview with what I said about truth in context in the last few minutes of the video…

The way he misrepresented what I said ironically shows that the truth is not really important to him. How about bearing false witness as well?

 

It’s projecting again!

Houston creationist, David Shormann likes to be the villain but play the victim at the same time. In his blog, he proves he is a primate by flinging poo even when it will not stick. When he failed to convince anyone that I was a potentially violent anti-semitic neo-nazi, he decided to call me a racist clansman next. That’s ironic because the KKK is a Christian organization which is in no way similar to anything I ever said, did, believed, or thought about.

But then Shormann is one of those “I’m rubber, you’re glue” people who likes to break the 9th commandment without accountability or shame. So he projects all his own faults onto those who will not share them. For example, he accused me and the organizers of ‘Answers in Science‘ of being ‘bullies’ -even though we’ve never bullied anyone.  Shormann however continues to encourage his readers to bombard the Houston Museum of Natural Science with phone calls and ‘firm’ demands that they cancel our reservation this weekend. That is bullying, and he’s the one who is doing it!

He accuses me of religious intolerance -even though I insisted on inviting Ken Miller (a Catholic) to represent our side. Sadly he wasn’t available. I also invited my friend, Ryan Valentine (another Christian) from the Texas Freedom Network to speak for us as well.  He wasn’t available either, but we got the president of the TFN, Kathy Miller, and I’m happy to have her.

One thing that Shormann is justifiably upset about is the slogan on my blog, “Science doesn’t know everything; religion doesn’t know anything”. The reason that should upset him is that it’s true. I can show that everything I believe is evidently true; Shormann can’t show that anything he believes has any truth to it at all, and there’s the rub. Because what that means is, while he may have a right to believe whatever he wants, he doesn’t have the right to teach his beliefs as fact -because they’re not.  The truth is what the facts are, and when we’re talking about education, if it’s not factual, it’s not correct. That means that what Shormann is trying to is wrong.