Merely molecules in motion

I’ve been listening to the infuriating Frank Turek. He’s got one argument against materialism which he seems to be well known for: those damn atheists are saying you’re merely molecules in motion, and you know you’re not, so therefore atheism is false, to paraphrase. Here’s an example from Turek’s debate with Hitchens. It’s an awful argument.

Christopher’s a self-described materialist but if atheism is true we have no grounds to know it because reason and thoughts are just chemical reactions in the brain. How can you have—even Einstein believed this. Einstein was a determinist. How can you trust what Christopher says if it’s just chemical reactions going on in his brain and chemical reactions in our brain? See, chemical don’t reason, they react. Now, I’m not saying there’s no connection between our thinking and chemicals, there is, but if it’s nothing but chemicals, how can we trust them? Even Darwin recognized this, it’s called Darwin’s doubt. He said, “If we are just the product materially of primates, why should I even trust anything, much less my theory of natural selection?” The next major reason is the laws of mathematics. Science depends on the notion that the universe is rational and mathematical at all levels. But how does rationality and mathematics arise from randomness? How do they come from matter? Rationality and mathematics are the product of mind, not matter. So you’ve got reason and the laws of logic, the laws of mathematics, and, number seven (or, seven in my list here, three in the addition) human freedom and the ability to make choices. Christopher is somebody who is very concerned about human freedom as I am, but again, if we are just molecules in motion, how do we have human freedom? William Provine from Cornell, he’s a materialist, a Darwinist, he points out that we don’t have any human freedom if all we are is molecules in motion. Now, Christopher ought not scold anybody for being a snake-handling, Bible-thumping, funny mentalist preacher because according to his own world view, that person is that way because these are just chemicals going on in his brain. Neither could you say that Hitler had done anything wrong if it’s just chemicals going on in his brain. I mean, what is the murder molecule? How much does justice weigh? These are questions that have no answer in a materialistic world view, but that is Christopher’s world view. It seems to me that it makes much more sense to say that reason and laws of logic and mathematics and human freedom come from a great mind that granted us these immaterial realities. The final argument is consciousness. Do you know that a heap of sand and a human brain have the same elements? Why are some carbon-based molecules conscious and some are not? Materialists have no answer for this. Daniel Dennett, another person who would agree with Christopher on many things, he’s a materialist, says that consciousness is an illusion because he’s a materialist. You’re not really witnessing this right now, it’s just an illusion. Now one wonders if he was conscious when he wrote this. But again, there is no explanation for this in an atheistic world view.

He has it all wrong.

[Read more…]

Is atheism bankrupt?


We had another mass murder in America this week, and there’s no way around it: it was by a “none”, someone who hated organized religion, and who described himself as Not Religious, Not Religious, but Spiritual. If he were participating in a survey, we’d embrace him as one of us, part of our growing majority. He was also a Conservative Republican, and if he were attending CPAC, we have atheists who’d enthuse about a possible recruit to the cause. But instead, he slaughtered innocent people, so we turn around and pretend his disbelief had absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s all very convenient. If he’d been a Christian we’d all sneer at the hypocrisy of all the believers who’d reassure us that he wasn’t a True Christian™, but now it’s only reasonable that we rationally and calmly divorce ourselves from any responsibility.

I don’t accept that.

I agree completely with Ashley Miller’s point that the myth of atheist superiority is dangerous, and leads to terrible consequences. Even if it isn’t causal, it leads terrible people to do terrible things to achieve that affirming sense of being better than everyone else. It has to stop. And the first step is acquiring some sense of responsibility.

[Read more…]

Take your pope and…


I’ll let you decide how to fill in the blank. It’s been a week of unstinting praise for the parasitic head of a criminal organization that promotes lies and superstition, and I have been disgusted every time a journalist swoons over the fact that Pope Francis smiled or patted some little boy on the head.

The Pope is not your friend. He’s the Kool-Aid with the cloying sweet taste to mask the poison.

He’s been defending Kim Davis’s bigotry.

[Read more…]

The answer is…they are intentionally lying

A school exercise seems to have roused the ire of creationists. It included a statement about common creationist behavior.


Not Just a Theory

Next time someone tells you evolution is just a theory, as a way of dismissing it, as if it’s just something someone guessed at, remember that they’re using the non-scientific meaning of the word. If that person is a teacher, a minister, or some other figure of authority, they should know better. In fact, they probably do and they are trying to mislead you.

I would like to see some clarification of the objection.

[Read more…]

Plagiarism is such a stupid crime

I can imagine a kind of accidental plagiarism: you’re taking notes on a paper, and you neglect to indicate where you’re transcribing verbatim, and days or weeks or months later, you’re sitting down to write and you mistakenly think your notes are your own words. It can happen. It can happen a few times. But it shouldn’t happen often — if you do that a lot, it means you’ve been transcribing instead of summarizing, and maybe you should be flagging your notes for the sections that are in your own words, because apparently they’re uncommon.

When it happens often, there’s no excuse. You’re not writing or thinking, you’re being lazy. You’re also stealing other people’s work. It’s a serious offense, too: we had to fire one blogger here for it, and it was a shame because he was an interesting guy and when he wasn’t plagiarizing he was turning out good stuff. But no excuses: it’s not allowed. Ever.

There’s also the kind of plagiarism that’s just stupid. Yes, I’ve had students who’ve gone googling for material, and then just copied and pasted whole paragraphs and pages into their papers. Do they think we wouldn’t notice the change in tone and quality? Also, professors are a suspicious bunch: when I see clear, mature, skillful writing, I’ll plug excerpts into Google myself just to verify that it’s actually the student’s work…and sometimes it is (Yay!), and sometimes it isn’t (uh-oh.) Again, that’s a very serious problem. It’s an instant F on the paper, with no recourse to repair the grade.

So this is distressing: Jaclyn Glenn is a plagiarist. There’s just no way around it; watch the video there, and you’ll see it — she basically stole another youtuber’s video script, and re-recorded it somewhat dumbed down. When caught, she removed the video.

And this is after she was discovered to have plagiarized a youtube comment. Yeesh. Plagiarizing is bad enough, but using youtube comments as your source? That does not speak well of Glenn’s sources of information.

You already know what FtB would do if one of our bloggers were pulling that kind of lazy stunt. Glenn has had some kind of promotional relationship with American Atheists — will that last? I know she won’t lose any viewers over it, since she caters to a rather undiscriminating crowd.



The Discovery Institute thinks Following Kitzmiller v. Dover, an Excellent Decade for Intelligent Design. What planet are they living on? Intelligent Design is basically dead: Kitzmiller v. Dover killed it as a legal strategy, and none of the expectations of the Wedge document have been met. But Casey Luskin provides a list of their great accomplishments post-Kitzmiller. It’s very sad.

The very first item on the list is Lots of pro-ID peer-reviewed scientific papers published. No, not really. They’ve been publishing in tamed pro-ID journals like Rivista di Biologia and their own in-house journal, Bio-Complexity, with occasional forays into marginal pay-to-publish hack journals. Their most prolific contributor is a retired veterinarian who has labeled his house the Department of ProtoBioCybernetics and ProtoBioSemiotics, Origin of Life Science Foundation.

One of their “triumphs” is that Stephen Meyer’s book, Darwin’s Doubt, was reviewed in Science. Have you read the review?

As Meyer points out, he is not a biologist; so perhaps he could be excused for basing his scientific arguments on an outdated understanding of morphogenesis. But my disappointment runs deeper than that. It stems from Meyer’s systematic failure of scholarship. For instance, while I was flattered to find him quote one of my own review papers—although the quote is actually a chimera drawn from two very different parts of my review—he fails to even mention the review’s (and many other papers’) central point: that new genes did not drive the Cambrian explosion. His scholarship, where it matters most, is highly selective.

Yay. Winning.

Also, via Nick Matzke, while they’re busy claiming that Kitzmiller was irrelevant and that they’re gaining on science, here’s what Google Trends has to say about Intelligent Design.


So that’s what victory looks like, huh?

Wish I could be in Philly in December

The pope will be gone by then, right? They’re having a party:

The Freethought Society (FS) is pleased to be co-sponsoring a very special event with Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia (EHSP) and the Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (DVAU) to mark the 10th anniversary of the “Intelligent Design” court case of Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. (400 F. Supp. 2d 707, Docket No. 4cv2688).

The Sunday, December 6, 2015 event starts with a free and open-to-the-public 11:00 AM, EHSP morning platform featuring Hugh Taft-Morales (EHSP Leader).

That was the best Kitzmas ever.