Sunday, February 9, 2014

Nye/Ham Debate - local reactions

As you may or may not be aware, Bill Nye and Ken Ham had a debate (video below the fold).

Personally, I think Nye did okay - doing some good for "proselytizing" our side, even if he wasn't all that well versed in the Gish Gallops of obscure creationist arguments.

I'm not going to recap that, but rather have a look at some people I know, who are fairly liberal Christian... people whom I did not even realize were paying attention. For the sake of preserving relations, I'll address them here. My general rule of thumb is to not debate this with people whom I know.

Shortly thereafter, an acquaintance of mine popped into Facebook. He's basically an atheist, but is confused by the labels, despite people apparently trying to explain it to him previously.
Human-A: Not trying to be mean; my issue here is... there's no evidence there is no god, but there is insurmountable evidence that the world and universe are very very old (relative, anyways, to our brief perspective.) What bothers me is that the 'show' was they think mattered here. The better performer wins rather than the one who is operating with demonstrably verifiable data? That's too much like 'might makes right' which is, itself, pretty contradictory to some of the new testament's messaging as I minimally understand it.
"There's no evidence there is no god" - a point he seems to bring up a lot, despite being a non-believer. I'm not sure how this is relevant to... anything. We also don't have evidence that there's no invisible intergalactic planet-eating space-squid barreling towards the Earth either. So what?

I think he's mired in the old canard that atheism is the positive assertion that there is no god, as opposed to just not accepting the claim that there is. This is why I'd say that he's an atheist, and he doesn't realize it. It's ironic, since he usually goes on at length about how people don't know what the words "conservative", "progressive", "liberal", etc, mean. He needs to brush up on "atheist", "theist", "gnostic" and "agnostic".

Otherwise, mostly agree with him.

Though, I'm not sure what part of the New Testament is necessarily opposed to "might makes right". I don't recall anything that'd support that clause, but nothing to oppose it either.

Another hominid jumped in.
Human C-I didn't think you are being mean. I personally think the debate is great... we should talk more about these things... and as usual, IMHO, the truth will probably lie somewhere in the middle.
This is a standard fallacy, actually - the Middle Ground fallacy.

I could just as easily say that there's two positions:

  1. There's an invisible intergalactic planet-eating space-squid barreling towards the Earth.
  2. There's no invisible intergalactic planet-eating space-squid barreling towards the Earth.
... and then say, "As usual, the truth will probably lie somewhere in the middle." That's absurd. We could construct the argument for an infinite list of outlandish claims.

God is an outlandish claim. The only basis for it not being outlandish is that people regularly make the outlandish claim. That starts to get into an Argument from Popularity.

I can't fault the person too much for wanting to be open and reasonable... but when we're talking about epistemology - like surgery - it's not something we can half-ass if we want good results.

The first hominid continues:
Human-A: I'm mostly with the phil plait op-ed on this one. I also subscribe to POOP (point of origin paradox) ... don't know where the land and the sky came from? Discover how they work. Don't know where the planet comes from? Discover how it works. Don't know where the galaxy comes from? Discover how it works. Don't know where the universe came from? Discover how it works. We're still working on the before part, but once you figure that out, you can't help but have to ask the same question again. Where did THAT come from? And the thing it came from? What about THAT? It's a bit of a depthless singularity wherein the answer to the question is infinite recursive. Even god is not immune to the human ability to question where He, she, they or it came from!
I agree with the above. Then, all of a sudden, I disagree with the below.
To that end, you MUST have faith that, welp, somehow it all worked out... 
No, you don't have to have faith in anything. The evidence is, it did "all work out". Clearly, we're here, prospering on this planet. Thus, believing it is not faith. Faith is only induced when you're accepting a claim as true without sufficient evidence, or in the face of contrary evidence. That's not something you ever need to do.

My position, on the topic of what happened "before" the Big Bang is: I don't know. That's not a faith position. That's the opposite of a faith position.

His last bit of that comment, I agree with, of course:
... try not to freak out or go to war with people who have a different idea about all that in the meantime.
He continues on another comment:

Human-A: What I did appreciate from Plait was the notion we need to dispel is that, somehow, acknowledging sciences, astrological time, evolution, etc, is a deliberate atheistic war on religion when it really isn't. All that's accomplishing is making people choose sides on an issue where sides aren't even necessary and are measurably harmful.
Religion is harmful (link to, for examples of what I mean).

Ken Ham is promoting a method of anti-thinking. He's promoting faith. We need to think to survive.

George from New York, who popped onto the Atheist Experience from time to time, had a great analogy, that I'll paraphrase, from memory:
Faith is like taking your eyes off the road while driving. You can do it for a split second and probably be fine... but the longer you take your eyes off the road, the higher the probability - approaching certainty - that you'll get into an accident.
Ham is promoting the idea of blindfolding yourself, while driving.

We need to pay attention to reality in order to make good, wise decisions, in regards to reality - it's really that simple. We just have no real means in which to measure the harm caused by faith-based thinking.

I think his point was, though, that taking sides is harmful, and I just don't see that. Sometimes, one side is just plain correct, and the other is just plain wrong. We wouldn't say that taking sides on whether we should or shouldn't treat cancer, is harmful. In that analogy, anything but taking the side that we should treat cancer, is harmful.
Human-C: If God wanted robots w/o the ability to question, wonder and even doubt, He would have created just that. I mean, we can do it.
... that's what faith is. Faith is accepting something as true without question... without evidence.. without reason. Faith is the point in which you stop asking questions - because you think you now have the answer.
Human-A: I also get an impression from the old testament that it's effectively aimed at a toddler humanity... not yet capable of logic and reason, but must be kept out of the road nevertheless so SPANK DONT DO THAT... after which we grow up a bit, but still aren't ready for the hard details, so we get the much friendlier 'tooth fairy and santa claus' diversionary edition in the new testament.
I'm not sure how much the Jewish people would appreciate being known as the "toddler religion"... since the OT is basically a rendition of the Hebrew Bible.

What kind of evil-child toddler humanity was God trying to build anyway? Explaining to them the rules of owning slaves? Forcing raped women to marry their rapists? Having two bears tear apart 42 children who taunted some bald guy? Hardening the Pharaoh's heart so that he wouldn't release the Hebrew slaves, so that God could smack him around some more? Having Lot offer to a crowd to rapists his daughters to gang-rape to divert them from the angels, who then decided to rape their father? Slaughtering all land-creatures on the planet instead of finding a not-genocidal approach to fixing the problem?

What the fuck?

This isn't like setting up rules to keep the kids out of the road. It's more like giving them instructions on how to flush cherry bombs down the toilet, or fry ants with magnifying glasses.
Human-A: Makes me wonder if the 'birds and bees' testament where we get included in the details isn't up and coming at some point. Perspective not to be taken too seriously... just something that's been rattling around in my head when compared to human child-rearing behaviors.
I don't know what he means by "included in the details". Wouldn't it have been better to, from day-1, teach love and compassion and turning the other cheek and all that?

If God is a parent, he's an abusive, ignorant, fuck-up parent.

Another theist joins the fray:
Human-B: My faith is unshakeable, 
Thanks for bursting out, within the first 4 words, declaring that you are closed minded. Following after Ham there, I think. Though, she does tend to be reasonable - she probably just meant something else other than what the chosen literally mean, when placed in that order.

She continues:
and I endeavour daily to live by the teachings of The Teacher, but none of it, not one jot, is threatened by accepting what science has to teach us, as well.
In the past, I wrote about an analogy - the multi-generational conquering of America.

A foreign force starts conquering America, starting in California. 500 years later, all that's left of America is Maine. The residents of the new America have no records or memory of what America once was, and are ignorant of what they've lost. According to them, America has always been the geographical region of Maine. They like to think they're doing fine and they haven't lost any ground... but just don't have a clue.

I have no idea what Human-B thinks are the teachings of The Teacher, but if she accepts the Big Bang model - she's chosen science over the Bible. If she accepts evolution, she's chosen science over the Bible. Even if we were to confine it to Jesus specifically... there's already problems.

Every time she goes to the hospital, or brings someone else to the hospital, she's abandoning Jesus's teachings about faith. Jesus did not teach to have faith, and then go to the hospital, to heal things like leprosy. No, he was pushing for absolute faith in God to heal.

When it comes to "turn the other cheek", she's learned in life that this lesson is actually a bad idea. Social sciences show (such as the Prisoner's Dilemma - Wikipedia link), that occasional forgiveness should be mixed with non-forgiving behaviors.

Science has shown that all miracles are bunk, that have been examined. Science has shown that prayer doesn't work, statistically speaking, and psychology covers a lot of why we think it does.

Science has shown that religiosity does not lead to better societal health.

Even Jesus can't follow Jesus's teachings (assuming that you buy into the Trinity). He taught forgiveness, but apparently the solution to God being mad at us was to have someone tortured and executed on our behalf - as substitutional atonement - an incredibly unethical, immoral and evil act... as opposed to just simply forgiving us.

Like the America of Maine, I don't think she even realizes what she's already surrendered to science.

She continues:
I am bothered when people go with the easy idea that they don't have to conduct themselves responsibly vis-a-vis environmental/societal/economic issues, because God is going to come in at some point and do a thorough cleaning, so why bother?
So she doesn't buy into the rapture? Well, to be fair, Jesus did say that he'd return, before the people who he was talking to, would die (Mark 9:1)... so the rapture apparently already happened.
What I want to do, or see done, is show a more mature, less greedy and childlike ownership of the planet over which we were given dominion. To me, that term has always connoted a huge amount of care, not just user rights, and make it the sort of place over which Christ would be proud to reign, and what have you got to lose by trying?
Well, money. That's what the GOP drivels on about, anyway. Generally I agree here.

One more person pops in, and states:
Human-D: I'm not entirely clear why this debate is important at all. It seems to me that it is a matter of history, not science. Whether life was created or life evolved, it doesn't affect how biology works in the present. It is what it is. Am I missing something?
He's not a very curious person, is he?

A key thing to realize about investigating reality, is that we never know what knowledge will be useful... so we have to investigate everything.

If we didn't look into "history" we would not have known the full scope of evolution, we'd have a poorer idea of how it works, and have a poorer ability to use that knowledge in terms of evolutionary algorithms, vaccines, breeding, etc.

As I started this writing making a point, it seems fitting to end with that point. The important point about this debate was the promotion of evidence-based investigation of reality versus faith-based thinking.

One objectively improves humanity, and our future. The other is a dead end of ignorance.

That's why it's important.

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