What is the best argument for god?

Now I’m sad. Robin Marie asked people at #TAM9 what the best argument for god was, and she didn’t get around to me.

My answer would be the argument from ignorance, because they all boil down to that, anyway, and because the only way I could ever be persuaded to believe in gods is if my brain gets scrambled by traumatic injury or Alzheimer’s or something. Being the one argument that could convince me ought to earn it high marks, I think.

Matthilda Dillahunty does good

As you may recall, I maneuvered a gang of atheists into offering forfeits if they could beat me in fundraising…and Matt Dillahunty agreed to appear in drag on his show. And he has come through! Watch the latest Atheist Experience TV Show — he’s looking good.


Watch the show, though. He didn’t just treat this as a joke: he actually took it very seriously as an opportunity to see what it’s like to fit into unconventional boxes. It’s always a good show, but the opening of this one is particularly informative and enlightening.

Guess what makes Josh McDowell cry?

I think the loony Christian apologist has got something right. He has identified the greatest threat to Christianity:

The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not.

Hooray for the internet!

Now here is the problem, going all the way back, when Al Gore invented the Internet [he said jokingly], I made the statement off and on for 10-11 years that the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism. And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened. It’s like this. How do you really know, there is so much out there… This abundance [of information] has led to skepticism. And then the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].

Somebody should book this guy for the next skeptics’ conference — he’ll make everyone very happy.

Canadians! You have been called to serve your country!

The Canadian Centre for Inquiry has an ambitious goal of establishing a physical center in every major Canadian city, and they’ve got substantial matching funds to help them do just that. This is the time to donate, if you’ve got the inclination. I’m sure they’d also accept donations from foreigners, although I’m already jealous enough of Canada that I don’t know why I’d want to make them even more awesome.

TheoLogic™ works everywhere!

Perhaps you’ve wondered about the true and factual foundations of fairy tales other than the biblical ones. It turns out that the reasoning of theologians is universally applicable!

It is time to set the record straight, and affirm the historical Truth of the Goldilocks narrative. I intend to show that it is overwhelmingly more likely that the Goldilocks story is literally true than not, and not only does it constitute Warranted True Belief, it is *necessarily* true in a deep ontological and cosmological sense, i.e. if the G3B model was any different, our universe would be deeply inimical to human life, and we would not even be here.

Wow. Since universality is usually considered a good property of a philosophy, this must be a point in favor of TheoLogic™.

There must be a gene for cussedness

I have a daughter. She’s all smart and growed up, and she has moved away to the distant land of Wisconsin, where she has a real, full-time job and a car and an apartment and a cat and ferrets and a boyfriend, and she thinks for herself (like I told her to!) and she has opinions I mostly agree with — she’s a freethinker and rationalist — and some I disagree with — she’s not a fan of the atheist movement and she’s had a bit more philosophy in her brain than I think is entirely good for her. She’s appeared a few times in the comments here, with much clashiness, and she has her own blog, where she occasionally writes about what she’s thinking.

And now Uncommon Descent praises her. Boy, are they barking up the wrong tree: she’s no friend of Intelligent Design creationism, and if they like that she’s willing to criticize atheists, it’s only because she doesn’t consider creationists even worth arguing over. And they praise her in such a condescending way: she’s just a “kid”, and they mainly seem dazzled that a daughter of a notorious “Darwinist” doesn’t fawn over Sam Harris.

The post that drew their attention is a scathing critique of The Moral Landscape. I’ve talked with Skatje now and then about the book — I’ve been interested but vaguely uncomfortable with it, and have felt a gnawing obligation (but no enthusiasm) to sit down and read it through carefully, and I think she knows that my usual reaction to it is a moan and an eye-roll. But she is the one who worked her way through the book thoroughly and articulated her own arguments. I think her short summary that it should have been subtitled “How science can help us achieve the things we’ve already chosen to value” is brilliant and perfect. I’m impressed that she also had the gumption to disagree with Sean Carroll’s criticism of the premise. I disagree that the book panders to “atheists with very little knowledge of philosophy”: most of the atheists I know, when The Moral Landscape is brought up, tend to shuffle about uncomfortably and try to change the subject — it isn’t at all popular with this particular community.

It’s a good, solid review, and it’s entirely her own work. I’m sure it’s incredibly annoying to her to be saddled with this mostly irrelevant connection to me, and it’s also annoying to me to have an intelligent, thoughtful daughter whose work I can’t reference without the awkward implication of paternalism. Read it because it’s good, not because half her chromosomes came from me.

Also, infuriating as praise from creationists is, even worse is the godless moron in her comments who patronizingly rebukes her for daring to criticize Dr. Harris.

So stop acting like a big smart girl while trying to choke scientific progression, because no one cares about your relationship with your daddy.

I feel a bit of fatherly anger when I read that, and I also feel some dismay that atheism has within its ranks such supercilious, sexist inanity (but then, I’ve been seeing a lot of that lately). The one thing that tempers that anger is that I know Skatje’s strong enough to smack that fool down.

I get email

I know the flaming crazy emails are more fun, but here’s one of the nice ones I also get. It’s also a little bit unusual in that the writer isn’t a Christian.

Hello professor,

I’m a long time reader first time writer. I’ve been following your blog for over 3 years now, and you have been one of the main influential characters that aided me in shedding my old Muslim beliefs and embrace rationality and skepticism. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for, well, being you really! I found your blog during the creationists hype back in 07/08, and was quite amused at your style of writing and boldness in calling bullshit what it is.

I used to be a “Muslim by flavor”; never really believed in hell, I agreed with the scientific biography of the cosmos but would say “it’s all guided”. I even rationalized certain theological dilemmas such as the problem of evil and logical contradictions when dealing with omnipotence/omniscience, and just shook my head in shame, silently, when fundies did terrible crimes in the name of Allah.

Long story short, as I moved away from home in Jordan and made it to the US and then Europe, what was previously censored and unreachable became available. It was when I finished watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos in 09 that finally declared to myself: “no more bullshit!”. Life has been quite a joy since.

I’d like to thank you again for your passion, your words and your works, and assure you (in case there was a shred of doubt) that what you’re doing is leaving a positive impact on our planet. I wish you many years of furiously nifty posts, and when the time come to pass the banner that you’d have a protégé who’d live up to fit the shoes you leave behind.

It’s always good to be reminded that that the Islamic world is also full of intelligent and secular people.

Raising consciousness, one colander at a time

Austria has a reasonable requirement that driving license photos show the person’s face without cluttering adornment — which seems fair enough, given that it will be used as ID. Unfortunately, they have an exemption for “confessional reasons”, whatever that means, which is apparently that having a superstition allows you to wear whatever the heck you want in your ID photo.

So Niko Alm tested that by donning special headgear — a colander — and insisting that it was a symbol of his religion, Pastafarianism. They conceded it, and now he’s driving around with a wacky photo on his license.

The only thing that wasn’t fairly done here is that the authorities required that he submit to a psychological evaluation to determine if he was sane enough to drive. Do they do that to every person who insists on wearing a yamulke or turban or hijab or pope hat or squid on their head? I think they should.

Well, except for the squid. That’s perfectly normal.