Fleas flock to Dawkins’ lecture

Richard Dawkins lectured in Michigan yesterday, and apparently, some silly Christian group was handing out a flyer beforehand, “Five Topics to Consider During Tonight’s Lecture”. It contained a small set of yawningly familiar arguments. I haven’t heard of these brave Christians actually attended the lecture or tried to ask these in the Q&A (I would be surprised if they did — I had someone try this stunt at one of my talks, and not only did they run away without listening, but everyone who saw the questions on the handout just laughed at them), but I thought I’d take a quick stab at how I’d address them if I were handed that piece of paper. I’ve put a short version of their long-winded questions here — see the link for the complete version — and my brief reply, although I’d actually be tempted to just laugh and shoo the goofy kook away around about the second question.

  1. Is there an objective truth (and where did it come from)?

    Yes, there is an objective truth that we discern by studying the natural world, and by constantly subjecting hypotheses about its nature to testing. That nature is not separate from its existence.

  2. Does evolution obey the second law of thermodynamics?

    Yes, and you’ve already descended into ignorant idiocy with your second question. There is nothing in evolution that violates the laws of physics or chemistry.

  3. What are the statistical probabilities of life evolving from non-life, and the accidental evolution of a single strand of DNA

    1.0. Life exists. What you’re really trying to claim, in your clumsy and unschooled way, is that you think evolution argues that the extant complexity of the biosphere emerged in one abrupt accident. It did not, and if it did, it would be an exceedingly unlikely event. It would be creationism.

  4. Why does the existence of God make Dawkins so angry, and how can a scientist say with absolute confidence that there is no god?

    Dawkins is not angry at the existence of god, nor am I. We are a bit peeved at intrusive nitwits like yourself who try to impose your quaint superstitions on others.

    By the way, you apparently have not read Dawkins’ book (which is ironic in light of the next question), since he does not claim with absolute confidence that there is no god. I will go further, however, and claim with absolute confidence that you have no good evidence for any god.

  5. [Assorted Jesus babble and bible quotes] Have you ever read the Bible?

    <snort> Yes. It’s an incoherent collection of delusional muck, cobbled together by generations of priests trying to promote the status of their tribe and their role within it. It contains brief sparks of literary brilliance, but mostly, it’s garbage. And the whole Jesus story is illogical nonsense that no rational person should accept.

Of course, the whole problem with bothering to argue with these people is that they won’t accept any of the answers, and will just start repeating the questions at you, at greater length. I’ve been on that merry-go-round before.


  1. AnthonyK says

    genesis 2:7

    Yes, but from what book, and by whom? Please provide full references, Rev. Sheesh.

  2. SC, OM says

    I know it’s rare that I make typos so please excuse it.

    OK. Just don’t let it turn into a regular thing.

  3. AnthonyK says

    It’s ok rev, I’ve found it. It’s from “The Bible” isn’t it? Not much use, really, as that has apparently been out of print for some years.

  4. says

    Donny Pauling @420

    I’m not sure how kind my answer was. You still have a lot of work to do before you have the background to understand the issues and questions from a scientific perspective. The “why” question to which I responded was the “why” of existence. The “why” of self-preservation is easily reasoned from natural selection as an explanation of the mechanism by which evolution works.

    Your last paragraph disturbs me a little:

    I am not prepared to give up belief in God. Contrary to those who have stated above (ignorantly so, because they weren’t paying attention to other comments I’ve written) that I “don’t believe in evolution”, I do. I firmly believe in evolution, yet believe it was guided by an intelligence I label “God”.

    I have no issue with an individual who chooses to believe in divine intervention. We have no evidence with repeatable results or predicative power to verify such a belief, but this is not my concern. But if you perceive the “science does not answer all questions” idea then attempt to parley that into a “ID belongs in a science classroom because science does not refute the idea” then you have failed to do your homework. Just because some “blanks” exist, does not justify commandeering a science classroom to make into your pulpit to fill in the blanks with whatever you (like a hollywood scriptwriter takes liberties with historical facts in a period movie).

    As for evidence of intelligence in evolution: maximum yikes! A deity behind the way evolution has progressed on this planet I find more likely would be Loki than Jesus. We can’t rule out Cthulhu either (whose tag line is : why settle for the lesser evil?). Remember that nasty ole bugbear “deductive reasoning?” Try using the evidence to rule out all but a warm and fuzzy benevolent deity. And God made psychopaths because … ???

  5. rrt says


    If you haven’t noticed, we get it. We see that you’re seeing natural abiogenesis as an absolute assertion, in direct and equal opposition to the god hypothesis. Now please pay attention to the chorus saying ” no, we don’t.”

    This is not an absolute assertion on our part. All we are saying is that given the existing indirect evidence and the context of success of the naturalistic hypothesis in science in general and evolutionary biology in particular, we have good reason to suspect it’s correct–and in the absence of evidence for the god hypothesis, no reason to suspect IT.

    I think you’re so adamant about this because you really have hidden your god in this gap and fear the alternative. But as some others here have also pointed out, I really don’t think you even NEED to do that. I definitely don’t think you should.

  6. heliobates says

    “Mud magically made itself into a man” was meant as a flippant reference to abiogenesis.

    Yes, that’s much harder to infer from available evidence than “Mud was magically made into man by an undetectable supernatural being.”

  7. David Marjanović, OM says

    Language is not something that can have evolved.


    (I do hope that’s not an argument from ignorance.)

    You, being a neo-feminist probably do not where heeled shoes, contenting yourself with clog like footwear.

    Reliable sources tell me that there are men who find high-heeled shoes sexy. I’ve never understood that. The erogenous zones are elsewhere, after all. Must be a 19th-century phenomenon when a lady’s ankle was such a rare sight that gentlemen made all sorts of far-reaching associations from seeing one… <headshake>

    You’re truly a strange person, Pete.

    And I haven’t even mentioned your ridiculous screen filter yet. Are you afraid the devil will jump out of the screen if you look at a word that describes, like, bodily functions?

    Religion contains a soteriological element, does crack offer this?

    Arguably yes…

    Your analogie fails because it treats religion as an addiction.

    So you mean you could stop any time you wanted? :-)


    Best of all is Alex, a parrot who LIES!

    Bah. Any baboon can lie (and does so regularly).

    …and you wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.


    Make the shape of a double helix by entwining tentacles with the other person.

    Oh… was I not supposed to say that? I meant *ahem* clasp hands and tickle each others palm with middle finger. Tentacles? That would be silly. Humans don’t have tentacles. Nope. No tentacles. Nothing to see here. Move along.



    This may not have crossed your mind, but perhaps, John @347, I just might have been naïve enough to think PZ himself actually responds in comment form here on his blog and was therefore asking the question of HIM. Yes, I know, I know… it is unthinkable that an author should (gasp) respond to questions or get into discussions on his own website. What was I thinking?


    Have a look at the numbers of comments per day, or rather per minute, and then tell me you expect a university professor to keep up with all of that. Oh, and, a day has 24 hours over cyber-here in teh intart00bz; you are not in Kansas or even in North America anymore.

    “It pays to survive” makes no sense. WHY does it pay to survive? WHAT made it “pay to survive” at the beginning of time?

    Completely wrong questions.

    Those that didn’t have a heritable drive to reproduce have already died out.

    That’s called natural selection.

    Also, this has nothing to do with atheism, it’s a mere fact…


    You cannot disprove solipsism. You just have to assume/assert/presuppose that there is a world outside of your (singular) mind that deserves study. [Emphasis added by Piltdown Man.]

    An act of faith?

    I like to make a distinction between reality and truth. (It’s not original, but I forgot where I got it from.)

    Reality is the physical world outside my head. Truth could be the same (that’s called materialism), or it could be the matrix or some other kind of smokes & mirrors like the concept of maya found in some kinds of “Hinduism”, or it could be that I’m just imagining reality (solipsism), or that God is just imagining reality, and so on.

    Now, the trick is that science doesn’t care about truth at all. It only cares about reality. To work, it needs a single assumption: that reality is reasonably consistent, that miracles don’t happen all the time. (A little resurrection here and there wouldn’t really matter.) Why reality is consistent (whether because reality is truth and truth happens to be consistent, or whether my solipsistic imagination happens to be consistent…) is completely beside the point; it’s only required that it is (to a large degree).

    And the funny thing is that this assumption is itself a scientific hypothesis! It is being tested in every single observation ever (whether of an experiment or not).


    Facilis, there is no problem of induction, because induction does not work! It is not scientific!!!

    How do I know the sun will rise tomorrow? By induction? Nope. I deduce — predict — it from the theory of gravity, and then (tomorrow) I’ll test that deduction.

    I mean, please. It’s so simple. Why haven’t you ever thought of this yourself?


    My point was that the spontaneous emergence of living matter from non-living matter is qualitatively of a completely different order to the various replicatory processes exhibited by living matter.

    But why do you think so?

    It looks like you simply presuppose vitalism. That would be quite an extraordinary claim, for which the extraordinary evidence has yet to be offered.

    Can you provide physical evidence that life is of natural, rather than divine, origin?

    Let’s start with the principle of parsimony.

    If we look closely, we see nothing going on in living organisms (under any definition) that is a miracle. None of them requires a new law of chemistry (and thus physics). So why assume that a miracle is involved — especially when miracles haven’t been demonstrated anywhere else and aren’t necessary to explain anything else?

    Is an autocatalytic cascade alive?

    is a strand of DNA alive?

    You tell me. You guys are supposed to be the scientists around here.

    Nope, that’s a matter of definition — as you’ll easily find out when you contemplate a virus, and then a retrotransposon. Life is a very fuzzy concept.

    If abiogenesis is a scientific hypothesis it ought to be susceptible to scientific tests. We don’t claim God is a scientific hypothesis.

    Then why don’t you just shut up about that latter hypothesis, useless as it is? After all, a hypothesis is useless when it’s compatible with everything and its opposite (and can therefore never be disproved).

    Now please watch the videos linked to from comment 490. Yes, all of them. If you have time to comment here, you have time to inform yourself before you continue commenting.

  8. Menyambal says

    I’m sorry that I’m late on commenting here, but I was interrupted in the middle of the-day-before-yesterday’s screed by a phone call from my wife. She and our daughter had been in an automobile accident and needed help–only a little help, fortunately. I borrowed a car, got up there, took care of things and got them home, and later realized that the entire event was marked by a total lack of prayer, religion or gods. The policeman did his work, the tow-truck driver did his, and I told my family that I was very glad they were safe. No God, no Jesus, but lots of love. (Well, maybe some religion, ’cause God only knows why the girl who caused the accident–her third accident–still had her license.)

    I had written about the question about atheists getting angry and disgusted about God existing. I see other folks covered that pretty well–it’s the Christians who are disgusting. It would be nice to have a big sky friend, so God his ownself doesn’t piss me off. It’s the Christians. They just assume that they are God.

    I also had a bit going for the guys who complain about manners here, and the general un-scientific tone. Geezum Crimbo! This is the comment section of an online blog–it’s only a step up from commenting on YouTube videos. Bitching about the blog is just dumb–stick to the points and try to communicate, or go away.

    I’m also thinking that some of the godbots are possibly paid to hang out and disrupt, or at least encouraged to. The godly institutes could certainly afford to keep a few flacks supplied with modems and malice.

  9. Ichthyic says

    You’re the one saying mud magically made itself into a man.

    more projection from you.

    1. no scientist has ever said that.

    2. abiogenesis theories strangely don’t include the element “magic”.

    review for yourself:


    see? no magic.

    magic is YOUR domain. Stop projecting it onto us rational folk.


  10. Ichthyic says

    In fact I’d say it’s just about the biggest gap there is.

    of course you would, but what is your opinion based on?


    again, how big of a difference is there between a virus and a parasitic bacteria?

    which is “alive”.

    something tells me you haven’t the slightest clue what “alive” even means. Have you ever tried to really mechanically break it down, even for yourself?

    are YOU even “alive”?

    I often wonder. My intuition tells me otherwise. I simply cannot fathom how someone so ignorant and stupid could actually manage to exist in a human society on a daily basis.

    See? that’s how preconception works. I’m personally convinced you can’t be alive, but reality dictates otherwise.

    now if you could just get beyond your preconceptions and strip away the gunk around your eyes and brain, you might actually be able to separate your own preconceptions from reality someday.

    until then, we’ll just have to continue laughing at the village idiot.

    uh, that’s you in case it wasn’t clear.

  11. David Marjanović, OM says

    Wonderful posts as always. You give me hope.

    For what?

    I’m not an American, if that’s what you mean, nor am I in America. I’m an Austrian in France. For hope in the USA, you’ll need Obama. :-)

    (And Palin, so she destroys the Reptilian Party in 2012.)

  12. says

    For Piltdown Man, and anyone else so ignorant or lazy that they didn’t know or find out what “ectopic” means before publicly self-humiliating: it refers to something being in the wrong place; as in making an incoherent, tendentious statement and then pretending to make it look like an innocent question by putting a question mark after it.

    On the incoherent side: the statement in question was a direct response to descriptions of objective faith in repeatable experiments, but for some reason it was referring to a historical science, which operates somewhat differently. That makes it incoherent.

    On the tendentious side, it was trying to ‘zing’ the point of view of the original message, by appearing to ask an unanswerable question, therefore somehow showing how creationism is a valid point of view. To do so with such an obvious fallacy, before an audience already (many by profession) highly sensitive to such a naive mistake, would be surprising if P. Man actually possessed the knowledge or abilities the style of their prose appears to indicate.

    I’m in a mode now where I can only comment every 24 hours or so, at most. I realize much text has gone under the viaduct since then, but my scan of the intervening activity suggests that there was confusion amongst at least one poster, and I just wanted to clear things up, if at all possible. If P. Man is, in fact, not as ignorant and lazy as they appear, then I am just spelling things out here. Otherwise, I guess I must say that I’m dumbing things down. If there’s any kind of response to this clarification from P. Man, I guess it will be obvious which it is (if it isn’t already…)

  13. says

    Shitfuckdamn. I meant to make a comment on “definitions” of life.

    Life has a number of hallmarks, and anything possessing lots of them is probably alive. It’s a concept as amorphous as is its reality. The human brain evolved to optimize conceptualizing the world in terms of folk physics; anything requiring instruments to measure obviously can be comprehended only by use of mental prosthetics.

  14. says

    Time for pwnage

    Why don’t you exercise your privileged access to “the metaphysical foundations for logic, reason and rationality” and show that the gospel accounts are not irrational? Or, you know, make any argument at all, instead of asserting, ad nauseum, this canard that atheism precludes rationality.

    It is by the impossibility of the contrary. Only the God of the gospel can account for rationality

    Even if God provided an objective Truth, how would you know?

    Could an omnipotent God reveal some things to us so that we can know them for certain?

    You implied you’d performed such an examination on Mormon Christianity; where are your findings?

    Mormonism cannot account for the aws of logic and reason.
    @Tis himself

    Again, in real life you haven’t. Your arguments were circular and you’ve made a career out of begging the question.

    By what absolute standard of logic and reason do you accuse me of these fallacies.
    You at least are honest that you have blind faith in induction. Most atheists aren’t that honest. But why not worship the God who can account for all logic and inductive reasoning instead of having blind faith in materialism?

    You believe in God on faith; something that is very different to how science works.

    How do you account for science if not by faith Kel?

    We have shown that your transcendental argument was fallacious in two ways:(1) It was an argument from ignorance (2) Circular since you have to assume logic to prove it. We have given you several different explanations for morality that don’t require God.

    By what standard of logic and reason do you accuse me of fallacies? And I refuted all you other arguments for morality.

    We have pointed out that nowadays no serious scientist thinks induction is valid reasoning and have given you at least one attempt that gets around the ‘problem of induction’ (Falsification).

    Yawn. Induction is still important in science even if it is not one of the primary points of demarcation between science and non-science. I would be glad to debate you if you think falsifiability is a good criterion.

  15. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Facilis the Fallacious Fool. You are still mangling reason and logic. You have demonstrated nothing to us, only alleged, and your continued pretenses that you have shown such proof demonstrates you to be a liar and bullshitter. Nothing you say can be believed.

    You need to go away and learn how to actually present logical arguments. You do it so badly. Take twenty years. Maybe by then you can actually present a simple logical argument.

  16. says

    How do you account for science if not by faith Kel?

    By using a computer. By going to the doctor. By getting in a plane. By reading a book. By looking at my watch. Science has a lot of theory built into it, but the genius of the scientific method is it’s focus on empircal backing and it’s self-critical methodology. By having so much focus on testing and rigorous methodological falsification, science has ultimate value through it’s pragmatism.

    In short, science works.

  17. Facilis says

    @Alex Deam

    And exactly how does the Jesus story provide the “metaphysical foundations for logic, reason and rationality?

    The immaterial ,universal, absolute ,invariant , objective laws of logic are a reflection of the rational ,immaterial, universal, objective ,absolute,invariant ,objective nature of God.

    You’ve solved the problem of induction? I call bullshit.

    PZ actually blogged about how Christians had solved the problem of induction.I believe it was the “pompous git solves the problem of induction with Jesus” thread.

    “Cogito ergo sum”

    Bertrand Russel pointed out that this is questionbegging. when you say “I think”, you presuppose your own existence, which is your conclusin (“I am”).


    Facilis, there is no problem of induction, because induction does not work! It is not scientific!!!

    How do you know this?

    How do I know the sun will rise tomorrow? By induction? Nope. I deduce — predict — it from the theory of gravity, and then (tomorrow) I’ll test that deduction.

    *facepalm* All that stupid. How do you know gravity will continue to work tomorrow? By induction.

  18. Facilis says

    By using a computer. By going to the doctor. By getting in a plane. By reading a book. By looking at my watch. Science has a lot of theory built into it, but the genius of the scientific method is it’s focus on empircal backing and it’s self-critical methodology. By having so much focus on testing and rigorous methodological falsification, science has ultimate value through it’s pragmatism.

    In short, science works.

    But how can you account for the logic and inductive and deductive reasoning that underpins the scientific method and makes it work?

  19. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Facilis, still no reason or logic. Your god exists only between your ears. Your haven’t proven otherwise, so fail one. Without god, reason and logic are man made constructs. Fail two. And without god, reason, and logic you have nothing. NOTHING.

  20. Rey Fox says

    “The immaterial ,universal, absolute ,invariant , objective laws of logic are a reflection of the rational ,immaterial, universal, objective ,absolute,invariant ,objective nature of God.”

    Christ on a cracker, could we ban this broken record already?

  21. says

    Facilis. You keep making assertions you have not supported.

    For example, this one.

    Only the God of the gospel can account for rationality

    not established


    Could an omnipotent God reveal some things to us so that we can know them for certain?

    You could not trust your mind to know the difference between a psychotic episode and what you claim above.

    How do you account for science if not by faith Kel?

    That’s an idiotic question. Science provides us the ability to repeat experiments to come to the same conclusion, or to dismiss them and it makes predictions. Not faith. Not even close. It is testable and falsifiable.

    no pwnage

    none at all

    Just you running your egotistical and simple mouth again.

  22. says

    The problem of induction exists, it’s just not that big a deal. Your computer makes billions of calculations a second, it has intricate circuitry and only works because of one of the weirder findings of quantum physics. Yet each day billions of people use computers with extraordinary accuracy. Each day, billions cars that rely on mechanics and fuel to behave in a certain way all still work. Everything sitting on my office desk right now is based on the assumption that gravity will still be working, yet there hasn’t been a point where my phone has “fell” to the roof and smashed. Each time I go to fill up my water bottle, it works under the assumption that the molecules that went into the bottle are the same ones that come out – that my water does not turn to vodka.

    Yes induction is a philosophical problem, but so what? If you have a problem with any particular theory of science that perscribes behaviour based on induction – all you need to do is show that the inductive process is wrong and it’s falsified and the scientists go to rework the theory. You’re making out like it’s a huge deal when in fact almost everything you use in modern society is based on that same assumption. Your computer works, ergo there’s value in science regardless of it’s ability to be absolute.

  23. says

    But how can you account for the logic and inductive and deductive reasoning that underpins the scientific method and makes it work?

    Again, I don’t need to. And your position is circular anyway, so don’t pretend your position is better than anyone elses.

  24. says

    Facilis, you assume and assert. What experiments demonstrate your claims?

    Your reasoning is far worse than P. Man’s.

    Do you get a merit badge for displaying your ‘tardedness before an informed audience? Jeebus Juju? Jeebu? Jubba. Wubba wubba wubba. Now that makes more sense than what you just posted.

    Question: what is the opposite of a Poe?

  25. Ichthyic says

    But how can you account for the logic and inductive and deductive reasoning that underpins the scientific method and makes it work?


    we finally managed to abandon religion, which failed as both explanatory and predictive method.

    the application of logic and deductive reasoning to observations of reality was inevitable after that.

    so, in a sense, all your quaint notions of religion did for us was slow us down.

    you’re playing the ultimate game of projection and denial.

    …and all of us that can see clearly are laughing at you.

  26. says

    facilis, can 2+2 equal anything other than 4? No? Then 2+2=4 is self-evident and thus logic is accounted for.

  27. says

    PZ, you’re a great advocate for reason, science and atheism, but your answer to the poorly-formed question about “objective truth” is an even bigger mess than the question. You’d do better to dodge the question with snark.

    For example: “Yes. There is an objective truth— exactly one, in point of fact. It is the axiom from which George Spencer-Brown derived The Laws Of Form in 1969. You can read it about here.”

  28. Menyambal says

    Facilis, you repetitious godbot, tell your handlers that you are an utter failure. You’ve been spouting shit about a calm, lofty and logical god of the universe, and gotten totally away from the snarlingly petty and evil god of the Bible. You have, by your own attempts at logic, shown us that there is no god. There may be something that designed life, logic and the universe, but it sure isn’t Jehovah.