Why I am an atheist – Charles Miller

I am an atheist because when I was a child, my parents read to me (and later with me) every night before I went to sleep. Some of my earliest memories are of Joseph and his Technicolour Dream Coat, of Rudyard Kipling’s Elephants Child and the Cat who Walked by Himself, of Midas and his Golden Touch. If I was ever told one of that lot was more true than the rest, I can’t remember it. I am an atheist because I can not comprehend how an adult living in the modern age, confronted with the plenitude of myths that purport to explain our existence without foundation in evidence or even simple plausibility, can pick one and say “that is the truth”.

Charles Miller
Australia

Another note for students — the rest of you can ignore it

Registration is going strong, and a bunch of you students want to get into my Fundamentals of Genetics, Evolution, and Development class, and you’re sending me all this email. A few of you also want to get into my Biological Communications class. Bad news: I ignore most of my email. I’d go insane if I didn’t. If you really, really want to get into the class, you have to come see me personally.

Weird, I know. It’s like the 20th century or something.

Anyway, I’ll be in my office from 9-4 tomorrow*. There will be a physical piece of paper with permission numbers on it somewhere on my desk. Come in, say hello, tell me why I should let you take my course, and you might be able to walk away with one of those numbers. This is a real university! We actually have to meet face-to-face now and then!

I know not every student here reads this blog, so spread the word. Cranky ol’ Myers expects you to demonstrate your corporeality before he’ll let you take his class. OK?


*OK, I might duck out to use the men’s room or to run next door to get lunch or something. Be persistent. I’ll be around. If you’re daunted because I closed my door for 10 minutes, you don’t deserve one of my permission numbers.

A little sliver of restoration

Hey, I know the Elwha river! I think we stopped there on my honeymoon. Lovely place, the Olympic Peninsula. And getting even lovelier if they are ripping out unneeded dams and restoring the rivers. There’s something so satisfying about a timelapse of a dam being demolished.

Next, restore the watershed and the salmon runs. Whatever, I’ve got to find an opportunity to relax on the peninsula someday again, before I die.

(Also on Sb)

Should this be encouraged?

Justin Griffith just re-enlisted in the military, something that gives me palpitations — I have a son in the army, I don’t know if I want to make that kind of behavior sound positive. Griffith also had one of those chaplain creatures give him the oath, another thing I’d like to discourage. It is, however, nice that he was allowed to leave god out of the oath.

Wait. Now I’m disturbed that we can find such a trivial omission at all significant. What’s god doing in there in the first place?

I get email

Did someone rattle the monkey cage recently? I have been getting a sudden wave of email from defenders of Kent Hovind, which is not good. Of all the creationists, Hovind spawns the most illiterate, incomprehensible mess; I think you have to be of very low intelligence to find anything at all appealing in that guy.

Anyway, here are two examples. I’d kind of like to be game-fully employed — does that mean I just sit around all day playing games? Because I suppose that could be fun.

Your assessment of Kent Hovind

You are an arrogant jackass. Your pompousness is only exceeded by your stupendous idiocracy. The fact that you are game fully employed is proof that we were created and it was obviously not survival of the fittest. If there were any true justice in this country, you would be the one sitting in jail. Hey ape-man, go back and crawl under the rock from witch you came and do the world a favor…

Have a wonderful day

This next one is just weird. He spelled my name right, but misspelled Hovind’s, which is a first. He’s also very confused — I think he has the impression I’m a Hovind supporter.

Kent hovend

as much as I love Kent hovend I have to say he is guilty
any one who has listened to any of his video’s has seen him say don’t pay your tax’s
I don’t if he did not say that in his video’s they would have left him alone
however there is a good part he get’s a captive ears that need to here what he has to say
we have copied his videos & passed them around
any one that watched them loves them
he makes it easy to understand
keeps it light [ funny ]
none of it is boring unlike most all church’s most guys drift off
in to never never land our wife’s have to nudge us
where no one that watch’s Kent never drift’s off ever

if he get’s out some day he will maybe in a few years
tell him not to talk about tax’s for or not just shut up about it
he can do more good out than in jail
on the good side when he gets out he will have a new set of suckers to
debate the old one retire or die off
hes still a young man & he has his son’s to take over
yes I did signed your paper to get him out
about a year ago
remember it is better to use a little honey to get them on your side than to
make them pissed off & wont talk to him any more
yes I know its not as much fun hahahhaha

Those are the strange line breaks in the original. I get the feeling he was trying to write a poem.

(Also on Sb)

John Haught releases the video

Haught finally gave permission to release the video of the Coyne-Haught debate — you can watch it now.

Haught had to get in the last word, though, he released it with a letter. It’s quite a letter, too. He explains that he didn’t withhold the video because he was a coward, oh, no — it’s entirely because Jerry Coyne was such an awful, bad, wicked man.

But let me come to the main reason why I have been reluctant to give permission to release the video. It is not for anything that I said during our encounter, but for a reason that I have never witnessed in public academic discussion before. I’m still in shock at how your presentation ended up. I was so offended both personally and as an academic by the vulgarity of it all that I did not want other people to have to share what I witnessed that night in October. I still don’t.

That makes you want to watch it even more, doesn’t it?

Rather than answering my point that scientism is logically incoherent–which is really the main issue–and instead of addressing my argument that the encounter with religious truth requires personal transformation, or for that matter instead of responding to any of the other points I made, you were content to use most of your time to ridicule several isolated quotes from my books. I was absolutely astounded by your woeful lack of insight into, or willingness to grapple with, the real meaning of these passages. Sophisticated argument requires as an essential condition that you have the good manners to understand before you criticize. Your approach, on the other hand was simply one of “caricature and then crush.”

I’m listening to it right now. So far, I’ve only gotten into Haught’s mealy-mouthed babble, and I don’t have much sympathy for him. What does “encounter with religious truth requires personal transformation” even mean? It’s a bald assertion. He gripes that science couldn’t detect cosmic purpose…why? And why should we believe theology can?

I’ll also add that Haught’s letter is a rather nasty, vicious, personal attack in itself. I’ll report back after I’ve heard Coyne’s part — I’ll be listening to see if it’s quite as cantankerous as Haught makes it out to be.


Yeesh. Haught’s closing statement is to tell us to read our bibles and consider kenosis and revelation — it’s pure theo-babble. Where does Haught get any kind of reputation as anything other than a very silly man? He’s just going on and on with this ridiculous crap.


I’m halfway through Jerry’s talk. No ad hominem so far; he’s arguing that there is a conflict between science and religion, and he quotes a few comments from Haught, but I’m not hearing any insults. Coyne disagrees with Haught, which is the whole reason they’re having the debate…is Haught upset because his opponent dares to present an argument in opposition to his?


I am totally baffled by Haught’s complaints. Coyne’s entire talk is on topic, emphasizing that science assesses reality effectively while religion…doesn’t. He points out that theologians, including Haught, fall back on the claim of the metaphorical interpretation, but that’s not an insult, that’s the simple, obvious truth. Sure, he points out that Catholicism has committed evil acts, but that’s part of the argument — if religion were a true source of great moral knowledge, as the religious claim, then why isn’t it legitimate to show that those claims are patently false?

Coyne’s sin is making his case strongly. Nothing more. It was a good, thorough dissection of Haught’s claims, and I can see why Haught would resent it being made publicly available, since he does a great job of making theology look feeble and ineffective and phony. But Haught’s 3-page open letter is far more defamatory than anything Coyne said.

Why I am an atheist – Doubting Thomas

Well I am one because that’s what you call someone who is not a theist, whatever you think that is. So I don’t believe in gods because I don’t see any need to. It seems that the only thing different between believing and not believing is that not believing means you get to do what you want on Sunday and you don’t have to do all the other stuff believers believe they should do. Like be bored to death in church and hate others because they don’t believe what you do.

Everything else is the same. The supposed god does not in any way affect what goes on. He does not answer prayers or intervene in floods and other disasters. He doesn’t reward good behavior. Same result as not praying or not believing.

Someone, Voltaire I think once said, “If there were no god it would have been necessary to invent him”, possibly so, if your goal was to control people. I don’t need that; I’m not a king or government. And since I don’t care for any more authority than is necessary, I don’t see the need to maintain the invention.
I discarded belief in god because it was worthless. The days when an espoused belief was an asset are fading. Politicians in this country still can’t get elected without it, but I’m not a politician. There are other human interactions where ‘having religion’ is still looked on as a plus, but I choose not to get involved with many of those and when I do, such as at funerals and weddings, I just keep quiet, or sit with my sister and laugh and make jokes.

Oh, and last but not least, believing in gods and all those made up stories about him just seems stupid. I mean, none of it holds up to scrutiny. It’s all silly nonsense.

Doubting Thomas
United States