Jim Garlow: Blacks saved Christians from gay bondage

Someone explain to me how this loon would be forced into gay bondage if gays are allowed to marry? I would imagine gay marriage only affects you if you’re gay and want to be married. No gay marriage law I’ve ever seen would force straight folks into participating in bondage games with same-sex partners. You know, as far as I know. I could just be missing the laws that the right-wingers are trying to sneak through.

I just think it’s interesting that the more oppressed outgroups in the States tend toward being Christian, to give them some hope for their futures, and as a result, because of the large population of religious folks, another form of oppression — of gays — has taken the place of the overt oppression these same oppressed outgroups once faced.

Can anyone give me any good argument against homosexuality that does not depend on a) a religious proscription, or b) an absurd “if everyone was gay” reductionist argument? Seriously. I’d love to see if there even exists such an argument.

God’s Wife Asherah

I’ve been having a very busy, very work-filled week, and I expect it will continue until I stomp out some odd bugs with our new mail implementation. Despite all this totally unbalanced work/life balance, I saw this article recently on Time: Fertility Goddess Asherah: Was ‘God’s Wife’ Edited Out of the Bible?

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this. There’ve been books galore about the evolution of modern Christianity from its Sumerian predecessor religions, and their scholarship is unquestionable. I don’t doubt for a second that the Bible has, in being retranslated time and again, been changed to monotheism from its polytheist roots. Here’s an excellent video detailing a good deal of the evidence for this hypothesis. Give the video a chance; he’s not the most polished speaker, but the content is amazingly well-researched.

The Abrahamic God is a construction — an evolution, if you will — from earlier mythologies. It was not created in toto via inspired revelation via any actual deity. My question is not “why did God’s wife get the short end of the stick”, but “why aren’t monotheists flapped by this evidence for the existence of other deities, evidence which is on par with what they claim to be irrefutable evidence for their beloved deity Yahweh?” Seriously, if you accept the Bible as divinely inspired, were earlier drafts also divinely inspired? Were the drafts, with its other gods, wrong? How do you reconcile that “divine revelation” was actually different then, so materially different that your own foundational texts are unclear or uncertain about the object of your faith?

How humans will discover alien life

Finally, a news article with “alien life” in the headline that gets it right — top to bottom, in every detail, including the headline (as long as you also read the article). Wonderful. Of course, it’s an opinion piece on the New York Times, but still, I have to give Ray Jayawardhana a hearty round of applause.

From Alien Life, Coming Slowly Into View:

But within the next few years, astronomers expect to find dozens of alien earths that are roughly the size of our planet. Some of them will likely be in the so-called habitable zone, where the temperatures are just right for liquid water. The discovery of “Earth twins,” with conditions similar to what we find here, will inevitably bring questions about alien life to the forefront.

Detecting signs of life elsewhere will not be easy, but it may well occur in my lifetime, if not during the next decade. Given the daunting distances between the stars, the real-life version will almost certainly be a lot less sensational than the movies depicting alien invasions or crash-landing spaceships.

The evidence may be circumstantial at first — say, spectral bar codes of interesting molecules like oxygen, ozone, methane and water — and leave room for alternative interpretations. It may take years of additional data-gathering, and perhaps the construction of new telescopes, to satisfy our doubts. Besides, we won’t know whether such “biosignatures” are an indication of slime or civilization. Most people will likely move on to other, more immediate concerns of life here on Earth while scientists get down to work.

If, on the other hand, an alien radio signal were to be detected, that would constitute a more clear-cut and exciting moment. Even if the contents of the message remained elusive for decades, we would know that there was someone “intelligent” at the other end. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence with radio telescopes has come of age recently, 50 years after the first feeble attempt. The construction of the Allen Telescope Array on an arid plateau in northern California greatly expands the number of star systems from which astronomers could detect signals.

The author ends the piece with “I happen to be an optimist”. Considering what advances we’ve made in so short a time since climbing down from the trees, we have every right to be optimistic about our species and the advances we can make within the scope of our lifetimes. And knowing how vast this universe is, and how omnipresent stars are, and how many of these stars have planets about them, I have to believe it’s an inevitability that we will stumble across something that will completely turn on its ear every dogma humans cling to today.

Wherein my subconscious brain invents a religion

I had a very strange dream last night. It was strange enough that I remembered it, which is one thing, but also enough so that I felt the need to run to my computer and write it all down.

Because humans have a tendency when describing dreams to attempt to force them to conform with reality, or to force them to make better narrative sense, I am abstaining from actually editing what I wrote at 4 am after roughly five hours of sleep. That it is as coherent as it is, is uncanny.

On visit to NB, on walk, father takes sister and I to a church he just joined. Glass first floor, windows all around, swipe card access. Stairs upward of cement, include several missing steps near the stairwell (intentionally) — you have to somehow pull yourself up using the guardrail. Guard posted at first floor at a desk, only he’s just this big pleasant guy in a light blue robe. Once at the third floor, we realize it’s Torvuism — “first church of sentient beings”, worshipping gods. (I know such a thing doesn’t exist. My dream was weird. There’s Tarvuism, which I assume is where the dream came from, coz of a video posted a few weeks ago to Skepchick.)

They worship the prophet Helen Keller, who appears to them (each of them) as a “hive” — never got the details on that. Preacher starts out with “praise be to gods”, and on some alien tangent. Sister and I look at each other and kinda boggle a bit. Sister breaks the silence first, asking father, “wait, you’ve seen Helen Keller?” Dad nods. I add, “not just a movie about her?” and consider asking what he knows about her. People around us start getting suspicious. Sis says “You realize she doesn’t exist, right?” I add quickly, “no, she existed, but definitely not as a prophet for aliens. Really, Dad? Torvuism?” Jen says “Frickin Torvuism! Wow!” We start to get up to leave. Preacher realizes something’s up.

Two people start nattering to each other very near where we’re leaving — pews in front of us — about how they knew some atheists once, and how they absolutely had to scurry out of the building because they were too unholy to stay for long, and how they’re tools of Satan (guess it borrowed from Christianity) — complete with throwing up devil horns with one hand (this woman was dressed in shades of red and black and I couldn’t see her face, but she had thick glasses and a black beehive hairdo). I deliberately make sure my pace is exactly measured as though I was at my ease, but still want to get gone.

Sister pauses at stairwell door while I say, “in fact, name me an atheist that doesn’t believe in God, but believes in Satan?” The women say “None of them do, but that doesn’t stop them from having no morals and being corrupted by Satan.” I stride toward the exit a bit quicker now, realizing the priest’s on his way down (this is a big place of worship — for some reason, pews are aligned perpendicular to where preacher was, maybe whole building wrapped around with pews like that, with preacher in middle — not sure, details starting to fade). As I’m on my way to the door, I say, “My morals are superior to those of any religion, because they are dependent on my empathy for humans, and they can change in different situations — they are not dependent on a foundational text that was written once and can never change even when the morals they prescribe are totally immoral, like those of yours against homosexuals. I hope you all have a pleasant evening, it’s been fun seeing this.”

Priest hot on our heels, Jen and I enter stairwell, jen jumps down flight of stairs through the gap in the floor, catching the guardrail in a really slick bit of acrobatics. I have to follow her. People at first landing of three wonder what’s going on, Jen makes it down to second floor really quickly where guard is, priest hits stairwell and yells down to the guard to stop us (who for some reason say “Damn college freshmen!” and starts to get up to grab Jen. She slips past him. I realize I’m on second floor still, he’s below me, exit’s on the other side. Only way past him would be to go over the guardrail, land all the way on the first floor and tuck and roll toward the glass walls, do a 180, and make it to the swipe card doors. If they even stay unlocked now that the alert was raised. As I was at the very last second before I’d have to jump if I ever hoped to make it past the guard, without getting caught by the priest behind me, I woke up.

Seriously. Wow.

Yes, the sidebar about Tarvuism on Skepchick was actually written in the original note. All I did, for presentation here, was added two paragraph breaks. I swear on my honor, every detail in this note was in the dream in as much fidelity as I could manage. I returned to bed roughly 20 mins after typing this up, and promptly fell back asleep.

Whaddaya think? Funny farm material?

Presuppositional apologetics: still intellectually bereft

Our ally on the other side of the Atlantic, Paul Baird of Patient and Persistant, took on countryman Christian Sye Tenbruggencate (I’m sure you know him — he made this site!) on Premier Christian Radio a few months ago, and has returned for another joust. Having had a chance to take on Tenbruggencate once in the past, it’s obvious that this time around Paul is much better prepared for the line of nonsensical argumentation Tenbruggencate evidently specializes in. One imagines that evidence is the best way to determine whether something is true or not, but evidently (heh, evidence!), the presuppositionalist must first accept that attempting to prove God exists, undercuts God directly. It’s almost like one has to take seriously the Douglas Adams passage: “I refuse to prove that I exist, says God, for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

Part of the way I argue against presuppositionalism, is thus. When the presuppositionalist suggests that the very existence of evidence proves God, one cannot assume that evidence itself is evidence for anything, but for one specific thing. The existence of evidence is a happenstance, resultant from the cause-and-effect of this universe, and evidence is actually evidence that all events are causally related to their antecedent events. To put it simply: Stuff happens. Evidence of this stuff happening, proves it happened, because the stuff that happened caused the evidence. It’s all cause and effect.

Logic is an abstraction of this reality. It is created by humans to interpret reality and make decisions in the best possible way; however, it’s not the only way someone can make those decisions or abstract that reality. The “existence” of logic, though it does not exist without humans, does not prove a higher power any more than the existence of a muffin proves a specific personal deity from whom all muffins spring (and who would smite you for believing in the local baker, or in your own abilities in muffin-creation). I argue however that laws of physics may not actually be “invariant” as posited. We don’t know enough of this universe to know the things we believe to be constants, are actually constants. We have some evidence that they’re not constant, in fact. So one cannot assume, a priori, that anything is “hard-coded” into the universe, much less “fine-tuned”. The very word “absolute” is a definitional quagmire upon which every presuppositionalist hangs his entire argument, because they generally mean “uniform throughout the universe” and “invariant” and “imposed by an outside force”. It’s that last chunk of it that implies God — by saying ANYTHING is absolute, they hear as “imposed by something” and “therefore God”.

There is a real truth to the universe. There is a real way the universe came into being, there is a real way the universe has become populated with matter, and there is a real way that humans have come into being. It happened exactly one way, though that way may be different in different parts, in toto, it happened only one way. That there is this truth, does not mean that “truth itself” necessitates a “truth-giver” deity. That’s nonsensical, no matter how often Tenbruggencate suggests that the counterarguments are nonsense. When something is “wrong”, that means it does not conform to reality. That there is a reality, does not presuppose anything but that there is a reality.

Do listen, if you have an hour and twenty to spare. I mean, if you really want to watch someone entrenched in their dogmatic position chasing their tail, and an intelligent rational actor watching and frowning.

Frankly, I don’t blame Paul for taking a break from arguing against circular logic after this particular debate. And I only wish Paul had much more time to flesh out his arguments than I felt he had, especially that presuppositionalism is not a proof for the specific Christian dogma, where all Sye had to offer was “scripture sez so, so we have to presuppose it”. It honestly felt as though Sye got the bigger platform by far on both debates, but I’m glad Paul got the better of him in a very specific way: he had to claim that there is nothing wrong with circular reasoning.

It's settled! Napkinism is the one true religion!

I fully expect Sye Tenbruggencate to convert to napkinism as soon as humanly possible.

The statistics on deaths related to nuclear power generation are wrong.

Or at the very least, extraordinarily misleading.

There’s a really good reason I call Stephanie Zvan “Our Lady of Perpetual Win”. Pretty much every time the woman sits at her keyboard, she writes something great, and usually in a much more timely and topical fashion than I ever manage. (When’s the last time I wrote about breaking news like Libya’s invasion, or the nuclear crisis in Japan, while it was happening? Yeah, exactly.)

At the risk of sounding like I’m merely her fan club, you really should check out her latest post, where she tackles the repeated comments in blogs and forums everywhere anyone talks about nuclear power in a less than flattering light. Her best posts are about eviscerating the astroturfing nonsense, and this one is no exception.

I’m still already tired of people telling me how safe–safe, I tell you!–the nuclear power industry is. Some of that is people reacting to any complaint about the industry or the passing along of the scanty news coming out of Japan as though someone were saying the sky is falling, and putting out fatal doses of radiation in the meantime.

Some of it, however, is the reliance of a particular type of information telling me that nuclear energy is as safe as it gets. For example, I’ve been referred to this set of numbers frequently:

Deaths per TWh for all energy sources

Coal – world average: 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal – China: 278
Coal – USA: 15
Oil: 36 (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas: 4 (21% of world energy)
Biofuel/Biomass: 12
Peat: 12
Solar (rooftop): 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind: 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro: 0.10 (Europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro – world including Banqiao: 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear: 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

There are quite a few things that bother me about these numbers.

Me too but I’m not nearly as insightful as Stephanie! Suffice it to say, the dogmatically pro-nuke commenters really need to learn how to read statistics, and make sure they’re all measuring the same damn thing, before they spout off the way they do.