My feelings are crushed

The NCSE has put out a press release congratulating Ayala for his Templeton Prize, and thanking him for his support of NCSE. It also parrots his defense of the compatibility of science and religion.

You know, I’ve been a long-time supporter of the NCSE, a vocal crusader for better science education and against creationism, and last year I was awarded Humanist of the Year…but no, I didn’t get the tiniest bit of press from NCSE. Was it because I’m not as scientifically reputable as Ayala? Because I didn’t get a £1,000,000? Because putting a paragraph acknowledgment on the web was more than I’m worth? Or was it because if they’d cited my position on the science/religion collision it would have been insufficiently appeasing?

Excuse me, I have to retire to my fainting couch and weep hot, bitter tears for a while. There are friends of the NCSE’s goals, and then there are special friends of the NCSE, and we can clearly see who’s in the popular clique…and it overlaps more with Templeton cronies than it does the humanist and atheist community. <sniffle>

(Actually, I did not expect a notice from the NCSE, and that’s OK. I’m just disgusted that they find a prize for pandering to religion to be at all newsworthy.)

I have been corrected: the NCSE published a brief note about the Humanist of the Year award in RNCSE 29:4, p. 10. Yay! I feel positively affirmated!

Turn off your TV

You could also smack it with a hammer and set it on fire. More mass media lunacy is looming, with a new show on TLC called Paranormal Court.

Robert Hansen, a psychic medium famous among people who believe in psychic mediums, will mediate disputes between family members squabbling over possessions left behind by the deceased.

You know, if somebody I loved died, and a fraud like Robert Hanson came along to tell me what that person believed, I think I’d be a bit pissed. And no, I wouldn’t accept that he had any authority or knowledge to determine the state of mind of the deceased.

Oh, and TLC (it stands for The Lamebrain Channel, I think) descends a few more notches in credibility.

Advice from believers is demonstrably worthless

Speaking of the ABC, I revisited their Global Atheist Convention blog, which I can say without hesitation was absolutely the worst effort any of the media put out. I think I prefer the blatant stupidity of a Gary Ablett to the mawkish blitherings of a gang of pious apologists — at least it’s honest. And that’s all they’ve got — the blog is still limping along with a series of tepid guest posts by people making weak excuses for their faith. It was supposedly a blog about the convention, but it never quite rose to the standard of even meeting their own aims — instead, it’s an exercise in breast-beating by sorry-assed theists.

It’s utterly negligible and irrelevant, unless you like the spectacle of Christians going boo-hoo-hoo. I did catch one gawdawful post by Chris Mulherin, though, which adds the additional fillip of seeing a Christian getting everything completely wrong. It’s embarrassing. I even addressed several of these points in my talk, and said the exact opposite of what Mulherin claims are truisms for atheists. Maybe I put him to sleep.

Anyway, here are 5 things that Mulherin claims are ‘unscientific beliefs’ that must be held to get science off the ground.

Five things that atheists (and others) believe that cannot be shown by the evidence of science:

  1. The universe is governed by the law of cause and effect.

  2. We can normally trust human rationality and the evidence of our senses.

  3. The axioms of mathematics and the laws of logic are true.

  4. Moral language makes sense and cannot be reduced to personal preferences. Racism, paedophilia, destroying the planet and chauvinism are wrong in a more binding sense than “I/we don’t like those things.”

  5. Humans have freewill and are not totally determined by the laws of science.
    In order to live, converse, decide what I will put on my sandwich, or whether I will attend an atheist convention, I must have the freedom (within limits) to make decisions.

There is more to be said, and the debate can be complicated, but the gist of the idea is that science must take some things as given before it can start its work. Most atheists take the above truths as givens, despite the fact that none of them can be derived scientifically.

Ugh. See? This is what happens when you gather a band of happy theists to interpret the words of a convention of atheists — it goes plunging off the rails.

  1. Wrong. I think chance is a significant factor in the universe. Cause and effect are important but not necessarily assumed; causal relationships are what we test for in scientific experiments.

  2. Completely wrong. Quite the reverse, actually; science is a tool we use to correct for the unreliability of our minds and our senses. I know I don’t trust my perceptions at all, and consider independent confirmation a great reassurance.

  3. In an utterly trivial sense, “truth” is an outcome of logic and math, so yes, this is accurate, by definition. We do believe that there is a real universe, and we attempt to probe it empirically, and in that sense we suspect that there is an actual deeper material truth, but that’s about it.

    I do wonder, though, if logic is false, how Christians interpret the world. Wouldn’t that make everything arbitrary and chaotic? In that context, maybe the Bible is useful after all, since it is an awfully arbitrary book.

  4. Mulherin needs to read some Hauser. A lot of morality is driven by personal revulsion, nothing more. There is a greater binding sense, however: a rational decision that says that discriminating against fellow human beings, abusing the next generation, reducing the carrying capacity of our environment, and treating women as objects has long term consequences to our society that are deleterious to the preservation of culture. We do make an assumption our culture is worth preserving, of course, but then, so do people in all viable cultures.

    It’s very Darwinian reasoning, though. Maybe Mulherin hasn’t quite grokked that major insight.

  5. Free will is philosophical bullshit. You can have an entirely natural biology that is subject to investigation by science that is not some kind of clockwork, predestined sequence of events. I decide what to put on my sandwich, but “I” is an unpredictable product of very complex neurological activity, colored by history over a baseline of biological predispositions.

It’s extremely annoying to be told by a delusionist precisely what beliefs I must hold because I’m an atheist, when I don’t. It’s a bit like concern trolling: the helpful faith-head erects a squad of five straw men which he’ll then kindly offer to demolish from us to clear the illusions from our eyes. No, thank you: you believe in ritual sacrifice, god-men, magical supplications, and supernatural beings. Your advice on science is worthless except for comedy purposes.

ABC covers the Global Atheist Convention

I can’t complain much about this coverage: ABC plays big chunks of the talks by PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer. Natasha Mitchell, the host, just lets us talk. She also has the complete and unedited recordings of the talks by Dawkins and myself on her blog.

Although, apparently, I run a cult.

They’re also going to run something tonight, with Gary Bryson and Margaret Coffey. I did give an interview to Bryson, we’ll have to see what he does with it.

These guys are dangerous nuts

Mike Vanderboegh is one of those teabagger patriots — he’s very upset about illegal immigrants, he’s one of those paramilitary fanatics, he hates Democrats, and lately he’s gotten completely unhinged about the passage of our watered down health care bill. He’s so irate that now he’s publicly inciting violence (which is nothing new, he’s been advocating civil war for years):

So, if you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows.

Break them NOW. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight. Break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks. Break them with slingshots. Break them with baseball bats.


The time has come to take your life, your liberty and that of your children and grandchildren into your own two hands and ACT.

It is, after all, more humane than shooting them in self defense.

And if we do a proper job, if we break the windows of hundreds, thousands, of Democrat party headquarters across this country, we might just wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary.

Great. Another homegrown fascist who has never heard of Kristallnacht.

Vanderboegh is a pretentious thug, but here’s the surprise. The gun-totin’ proud “Son of Liberty” who rails against big government and hates socialism is unemployed and living off his government disability checks.

Ayala fires a shot across the ‘New’ Atheist bows

The London Times has a piece on Ayala’s Templeton prize, and it annoys me early:

Professor Francisco Ayala, who won the £1 million Templeton Prize for scientific thought,

Say what? There’s no amount of science you can do that will win you a Templeton prize. It’s a prize for religious apologetics, nothing more.

And then Ayala reveals why he won the prize. Not for science, but because he doesn’t like those annoying atheists.

said that attacking religion and ridiculing believers provided ammunition for religious leaders who insisted that followers had to choose between God and Darwin. “Richard Dawkins has been a friend for more than 20 years, but it is unfortunate that he goes beyond the boundaries of science in making statements that antagonise believers,” he said.

That Dawkins antagonizes believers is a given, but then, antagonizing them is a trivial exercise — run a sign past them that says “Don’t believe in God? You aren’t alone” and they’ll scream “oppression!” Many of us are quite happy to antagonize deluded believers in superstition, and we aren’t too happy with scientists who suck up to them instead.

But that other comment about going “beyond the boundaries of science” is a curious one. Where? I think that when you invoke an invisible, undetectable ghost in the sky who diddles quanta or turns into a man who raises the dead, then you are going beyond the boundaries of science. When someone points out that there is no evidence of such activities, that the claims of supernaturalists are contradictory and unreasonable, or explains that the material claims of priests are fair game for critical examination, they are actually operating entirely within the domain of science.

I would like to see a specific example from Ayala of an invalid scientific argument from Dawkins or any of the other ‘New’ Atheist scientists — or is it his belief that antagonizing believers is sufficient to make a claim unscientific? In which case we’d have to argue that the Catholic Church was acting ‘scientifically’ in their treatment of Galileo.

Ayala has more Templeton-worthy comments to make.

The professor, who was born in Spain and is a naturalised American, says science and religion cannot be in contradiction because they address different questions. It is only when either subject oversteps its boundary, as he believes is the case with Professor Dawkins, that a contradiction arises, he said. “The scientific fundamentalism proposed by Dawkins implies a materialistic view of the world. But once science has had its say, there remains much about reality that is of interest. Common sense tells us that science can’t tell us everything.”

Again with the boundary. Where is this boundary, please, and where does Dawkins cross it? Be specific.

It is absurd to claim that science and religion can’t be in contradiction. Look at Ken Ham’s Creation “Museum”; that’s pure religion through and through, and it is clearly in contradiction with science. QED. Perhaps Ayala wants to claim that his religion (if he has one) is not in contradiction to science, but that’s also bogus; science obtains its information from empirical observation of the real world, not magic and not revelation and not the interpretation of sacred texts. Almost every religion proposes an alternate source of information from a supernatural entity; science challenges those explanations.

What aspects of reality are not subject to science, or materialism, or natural investigation? I’d like to know. Is Ayala proposing ghosts or angels or gods capable of intervening in the world? (I will do him the credit of assuming that he’s not going to trot out the idiotic claim that love is not natural, which is the usual inane example that gets thrown at us.)

One interesting thing about Ayala is that he always avoids the topic of his own personal beliefs about gods, which he claims is to avoid biasing people about his views, but which instead to me looks like intellectual cowardice: if you will not lay your ideas out on the table plainly, no one can criticize them. Here’s a standard disclaimer from Ayala in a Spanish source (google translation).

Question. In his youth he was ordained a Dominican priest. Are you still a man of faith?

Answer. Never answer that question. Do not want any of the parties, faith or religion, influence how people perceive my views.

Either he’s one of those faitheists, who doesn’t personally believe but thinks other people should, or he holds a few ideas about gods that he knows are indefensible. Either way, I’m unimpressed. It means he’s going to hide his opinions safely away, and as we can see in the Times article, snipe away at atheists (we already know he won’t snipe at his fellow travelers in the Templeton world, which hints at where his loyalties lie already.)

He also gives two of the usual NOMA arguments for religion: that it’s domain is answering the “why” questions and providing morality.

Science and religion are two windows to look at the world. The world is watching it. But what is seen from the windows is completely different. Religion is the meaning and purpose of life and moral values and science attempts to explain the composition of matter, the origin of organisms. Areas are different, but not at odds. It is possible to maintain a scientific position and being religious.

Total nonsense.

An answer on the meaning and purpose life built around an untestable and often falsified proposition is no answer at all. I could declare right now that the meaning of life is found in the worship of Saturn, which is where the aliens who created life on earth reside, and where our souls will return at death, and sure, it is an answer, but it’s wrong and it’s a lie. Christians can declare that the meaning of life is found in Jesus all they want, but I don’t believe it (and neither do the Muslims or Hindus or Shintoists), and it isn’t a good answer, since they’ve got no reason but tradition and fear to back it up. Religion is a free-floating myth, completely wrong and therefore invalid as an answer.

As for morality…what a joke. Has he looked at the ethical shambles of his former church? The child abuse revelations keep pouring out. We cannot possibly take religion’s leadership in moral issues seriously — the purpose of the church is to maintain power and an exalted status for its leadership, not to provide any insight into the beneficent desires of a heavenly patron of our species. Unless, of course, the message is that raping children is a good and kind act.

Anyway, now you can see why Ayala won the Templeton Prize. He’s a master of the non-committal waffle, the pious denial of any problem with faith. He’s definitely not acting on the side of science in his declarations about religion, because science tends to be a bit more open and bold than that.

Prognostication Poll for Palin

This poll misses a golden opportunity.

What do you think Sarah Palin should do next?

Run for president.
Run for some other office.
Continue speaking as private citizen.
Something else.

“Something else”? But what? I can imagine lots of things I’d like to see Sarah Palin do…like get an education, or join the circus, or get eaten by wolves.

If you answer “Something else”, I think you’ll just have to expand on your answer here.

I’ve always wondered what he looked like


The regal figure to the right is Terrill Dalton. He had a vision that revealed that he, personally, was the Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ’s dad. Who knew the Holy Ghost would look a bit like the Pillsbury Doughboy?

Anyway, the Holy Ghost has come down a bit in the world. He’s now living in a collection of campers and vans on a 5 acre lot in Montana, leading a breakaway Mormon sect that was too crazy for Utah.

Members of the Church of the Firstborn and General Assembly of Heaven had fled to Idaho from Utah last year after their large home in a Salt Lake City suburb was raided by federal officials investigating claims of child sexual abuse and assassination threats against President Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


He also has a webpage with an anorexic Jesus and a mushroom cloud background; he’s been busy rewriting the Bible, which is good — a hobby might distract him from the molesting children and assassinating people gigs.