Victor Stenger: 1935-2014

Studio photo of Victor Stenger in his later years.Some called him the Fifth Horseman of New Atheism. He wrote openly and prolifically in defense of atheism, and in promotion of sensible physics against Christian and woo abuses of it. And only a few days ago he died. I had the honor of hanging out with Victor Stenger several times in my life, and served as a consultant for him a few times (on philosophy and history of science). My wife liked him. She remembers him as a sweet old man. I also remember him as a forceful but soft spoken debater, and the number one physicist in the ranks of New Atheism bigwigs. Hemant Mehta has a nice memorial piece about him at Patheos. And there’s a brief but informative obit in Doubtful News. He’ll be missed.

Magical Earthquake Ray Beams Caused the Shroud of Turin

Oh, yeah, baby. Someone pointed out to me in a comment on another post that people are circulating a story now that some Italian scientists have “proved” that the Shroud of Turin is authentic because its carbon date was altered by neutron radiation from a giant earthquake in Judea in exactly 33 A.D. (which they also know to have been exactly 8.2 on the Richter scale, thanks to, uh, ancient Roman seismometers or something). This claim even appears, without any skepticism, at Science Daily. And somehow, upending the whole world order, the duly skeptical report on this tale comes from Fox News! The original study claiming these absurd things is A. Carpinteri, G. Lacidogna, and O. Borla, Is the Shroud of Turin in Relation to the Old Jerusalem Historical Earthquake? Meccanica (February 2014).

That is either a joke article, or these Italians at the Politecnico di Torino are some of the goofiest cranks in human history (it appears to be the latter, but it’s hard to tell–if this is a Poe, it’s pretty good; whereas the paper’s lead author appears to be an established crank). [Read more…]

Essential Viewing on Godless Cosmology

Image capture from Before the Big Bang – Loop Quantum Cosmology Explained, showing host (a woman) and physicist Ivan Aguillo laughing together before a chalk board full of equations, some of which Aguillo explains in the video.There is a video every atheist must see, who ever wants to think about or debate the origin of the known universe (with a theist or even a fellow atheist). It is a superb video. It is the kind of video we need more of. What is so great about it? Some atheists went to some actual scientists (actual cosmologists and theoretical physicists) and asked them about the claims made by Christian apologists like William Lane Craig. And asked follow-up questions. And recorded what they said. And edited it together with useful commentary. Imagine this being done for origin of life studies or any other question where theists love to abuse the science (but doesn’t get the same coverage as evolution). Or claims theists make about cosmological science that didn’t get covered in this video.

The video I’m talking about is by the SkyDivePhil video team (an awesome couple who do a lot of great stuff on science awareness through their YouTube channel). The specific video in question is Before the Big Bang – Loop Quantum Cosmology Explained. It’s great for a number of reasons. For one, it gives a nice explanation of what quantum loop gravity theory is and has to contribute to superstring theory and how they came to differ, and then ties this all into current debates in cosmology, in particular the origin of the known universe, in even more particular what caused the Big Bang.

You can see why theists would be nervous at this point. And why atheists might be especially keen to check this out. I know there are lots of videos about the Big Bang and cosmological arguments. But this one is a league above them all. Because it distills the right points, from real experts, in a well-organized way that will leave most smart layfolk with a much better idea of why theists are wrong about Big Bang cosmology and how the likes of William Lane Craig are conning people with their selective distortions of it. Some of the discussion might be easier to understand for at least college graduates and autodidacts, but I think anyone with smarts can grasp the main points, and brush up on anything they don’t quite get with some judicious googling.

Either way, this should be anyone’s first-stop in that quest to understand current Big Bang theory. And everyone who wants to be able to speak informedly on this issue (such as to debate it) definitely must know at the very least what’s said here. So you should all give it a view. It’s 44 minutes, so find a nice pleasant time to just sit down and watch it. You’ll come away with a better grasp of how to articulate the points made in it, and make use of that to thwart Christian apologetics, as well as just understand how we (as intelligent life) got here, better than you did before. The triumph of atheism is reflected in the incredible strides of success science has made in answering that question…without having to posit a god to explain anything.

Below I’ll say more about it, why the video is worth watching, and what other resources you can tap to make the most use of it–and show to Christians why they are just wrong about godless cosmology… [Read more…]

Ex Nihilo Onus Merdae Fit

A common argument against atheism is that the Big Bang proves everything had a beginning (it does not in fact prove that, but bear with me here), therefore there was once nothing, and ex nihilo nihil fit, “from nothing, comes nothing.” However, that latter premise is demonstrably false. And that spells death for theism and marvelous glory for atheism. And I don’t even mean in the Lawrence Krauss A Universe from Nothing sense, since he doesn’t actually mean “nothing” when he talks about nothing (a point I’ll get back to in a moment). No, I mean, even granting the theist’s premise that if there was no God, then there was once absolutely nothing, and therefore there cannot have been a universe, therefore the fact that we are here entails God exists, because our existence would be literally impossible otherwise. I am saying that even granting that premise, all those “therefores” don’t actually follow. They are complete non sequiturs. In fact, I am not just saying that; I’m even saying that the exact opposite is true, that when we grant that premise (the theist’s own premise!), then a whole shitload of stuff will necessarily exist. Huwah? Yeah. And not a pejorative load of shit. An actual shitload.

I’ve been asked to explain this so many times lately (going all the way back to Mike Licona in our second debate) that I’ve decided to blog it so I can just point people here (that’s kind of the reason for everything I write, really). [Read more…]