Archive for the 'religion' Category

Mar 01 2010

Looking Farther: No Gods on Saturn

saturnplane cassini

This just in: NASA’s Cassini space probe has found no evidence of gods in our solar system. Hmm. I wonder why that is….

Why is science seemingly hostile to religion? (Any hostility exists in how the results are received.) Because science refuses to place a finger on the scale when weighing the evidence for gods. Honest science, anyway. Objectivity doesn’t favor the existence of gods. The inkblot of subjective experience, however — well hell, anything can be made of that.

Yes, I’m an atheist. No, don’t take my word for it. Look at the evidence. Good evidence. And what you will find is that Saturn is devoid of evidence of a god. And a quadrillion other things are likewise devoid of gods and/or their influence.

Speaking of devoid of gods, I invite you to check out the latest godless blogging carnival: Carnival of the Godless, No. 136 – Revolutionary Communist Edition!

[photo thanks to NASA]

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Feb 28 2010

The Limp Teachings of Jesus

I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to state outright that religions tend to promote in-group thinking and behavior. Coupled with feelings of righteousness. A natural consequence of this is . . . a heightened perception of “outgroup” members. Those others who are less good.

So this article headline came as no surprise to me: Study Links Religion and Racism

As for the science behind the finding…not bad.

A meta-analysis of 55 independent studies carried out in the United States with more than 20,000 mostly Christian participants has found that members of religious congregations tend to harbor prejudiced views of other races.

Not earth-shaking, but interesting. Noteworthy, sure. As was this related finding:

Her analysis [team leader Wendy Wood] found significantly less racism among people without strong religious beliefs. [bold added]

Man, those secular values, they are so dangerous! Not.

But the point I want to make comes as a consequence of this tidbit found deep down in the article:

The effect is strongest in the seminary,” Wood said. Of the 55 studies, 14 dealt with highly religious populations such as frequent church attendees and seminarians. [bold added]

Seminarians are most racist of the groups studied. Hmm. There they are, spending their days with the supposedly heart-and-soul-altering teachings of their allegedly Good Book . . . and?

Exactly! There is religion AND there are all these other factors that influence morality.

Religion strikes me as a placebo treatment. When it works, it works because people think it is going to work. But does it have real value?

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Feb 25 2010

Miraculous Technology and the Supernatural

Published by under religion,science

How does the saying go? . . . A technology sufficiently advanced (above some current baseline) is indistinguishable from magic. Or something.

Get a load of this near magic: ‘Perfect’ Liquid Hot Enough to Be Quark Soup

Recent analyses from the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a 2.4-mile-circumference “atom smasher” at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, establish that collisions of gold ions traveling at nearly the speed of light have created matter at a temperature of about 4 trillion degrees Celsius — the hottest temperature ever reached in a laboratory, about 250,000 times hotter than the center of the Sun. [bold added]

Holy smokes!

Perhaps one of the things that would make a technology sufficiently advanced as to appear magical is a lack of an explanatory mechanism for the observation/event. Lacking an explanation, something just doesn’t seem natural. It’s super – natural. It’s above current understanding.

From early in the Bible to late you will find associated with the supernatural things that confound.

“Who among the gods is like you, O LORD ? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (Exodus 15:11).

Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. (Acts 2:43)

So what does it take to transform a miraculous/supernatural event into a something religious? A crucial social element. A responsible agent from another world or with other-worldy powers. And perhaps this agent must be perceived to be related to you and/or have a vested interest in you. Maybe the agent has to be responsible for your being and/or well-being.

So what’s the difference between a scientist and a priest? The scientist revels in tests and explanations, attributing his deeds to things fully natural. The priest doesn’t. The priest speaks of a special agent — a god — from a special realm and into gaps in the known injects the work of this god. The scientist doesn’t.

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Feb 22 2010

Christianity: A More Acceptable Superstition?

The author of atheistcartoons really nailed it on this one.

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Feb 18 2010

God Follows Morality

Many religious folk claim that without a god in your life, well, all hell will break loose. Why? Their god is the source of morality. For years I have found this claim to be patently absurd. First, examine the many social groups around the globe and you will find many lacking “the” god of the Bible, or any supreme being for that matter, and, guess what — no wanton immorality. People seem to get along just fine. Though certainly with some exceptions. Just as you find among believers in a most high god.

Second, I have extensively studied risk factors for crime, and non-belief isn’t one of them.

Now new research further refutes the “first God, then morality” claim. In fact, the research argues that the claim has things backwards. It states:

“It seems that in many cultures religious concepts and beliefs have become the standard way of conceptualizing moral intuitions.”

That from, Morality research sheds light on the origins of religion.

So yes, religion and morality are likely related. But that relationship may consist of religions “conceptualizing” pre-existing “moral intuitions.”

Here’s the old view of the relationship, favored by pro-religion naturalists:

“Some scholars claim that religion evolved as an adaptation to solve the problem of cooperation among genetically unrelated individuals…” [bold mine]

But the new scholarly research refutes:

Citing several studies in moral psychology, the authors highlight the finding that despite differences in, or even an absence of, religious backgrounds, individuals show no difference in moral judgments for unfamiliar moral dilemmas. The research suggests that intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.

And so “Dr. Pyysiainen and co-author Dr. Marc Hauser, from the Departments of Psychology and Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University” were led to this conclusion -

“This supports the theory that religion did not originally emerge as a biological adaptation for cooperation, but evolved as a separate by-product of pre-existing cognitive functions that evolved from non-religious functions,” says Dr. Pyysiainen.

Those who claim that you need religion to love thy neighbor and whatnot likely have placed the cart before the horse. This new research reveals that without the horse, there would be no cart. And as for atheists, they have no need for the cart of religion. And can love their neighbor just fine.

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Feb 10 2010

Science and Religion: Just Differing Presumptions?

Some religion-friendly thinkers claim that science and religion differ on their basic presumptions. Science has one set, and religion has another. And because we mention them in the same breath, they must be equal.

BS. That’s like claiming all cake recipes are equivalent, because they all contain ingredients. No way. The value of a recipe is in the taste-test.

Similarly, the value of a worldview can be tested. Does it really help us know anything? Or is it just a bunch of hot air?

The beauty of science is that it is ultimately pragmatic. It begins with no pre-conceived musts. What works, works.

Scientists tend to reject religion not because it conflicts with their cherished paradigm. They reject it for this simple reason: It doesn’t work.

[cartoon thanks to http://www.jesusandmo.net/]

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Feb 09 2010

Those Crazy Muslims!

Many believe that Muslims are dangerously removed from reality. 72 virgins for blowing yourself up?!!!

But please. Let’s not play favorites. Religious delusion-LITE is still delusion.

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Feb 03 2010

Measuring Evolution

Published by under evolution,religion

If you can measure something, I would say it’s real. Well, at least if others are capable of measuring it, too, and your definition of what it is you are actually measuring is concrete vs. vague.

With each passing month, with each passing dozens of studies, it becomes progressively more ludicrous for creationists to deny the reality of evolution. Consider these two recent pieces of research.

1) Evolution Caught in the Act: Scientists Measure How Quickly Genomes Change

[Researchers] followed all genetic changes in five lines of the mustard relative Arabidopsis thaliana that occurred during 30 generations. In the genome of the final generation they then searched for differences to the genome of the original ancestor.

The painstakingly detailed comparison of the entire genome revealed that in over the course of only a few years some 20 DNA building blocks, so called base pairs, had been mutated in each of the five lines.

Ah, yes, the slow, sure march of mutation-led evolution. Measured and documented.

Of course, the “march” doesn’t lead to some anthropocentrically-meaningful endpoint. Just to a better fit with changing environments.

2. Researchers Track Evolution and Spread of Drug-Resistant Bacteria Across Hospitals and Continents

Warning! Hard-core science ahead.

Colleagues at ITQB in Portugal and Susana Gardete, a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Microbiology and Infectious Disease at Rockefeller, prepared DNA from more than 40 of the Brazilian MRSA isolates recovered between 1982 and 2003 from a variety of sources in Europe, South America and Asia. These preparations were analyzed by colleagues at the Sanger Institute using a new, very high throughput DNA sequencing technology.

The findings reported in Science provide an unparalleled view of the evolutionary history and age of the Brazilian MRSA clone. It was possible to show that the most likely birthplace of Brazilian MRSA was actually Europe, from where it spread to South America and Asia. From there, it continued to evolve and was reintroduced to Europe at a later date.

Yah, sure. The above sounds like crazy scientists deluding themselves with their evolution dogma, doesn’t it. (Not!) Boy, they sure go to great lengths to pull the wool over their eyes and the eyes of the public. Evolution, shmevolution. What’s even more amazing is that thousands of researchers with different political leanings, religious beliefs (or none) and general philosophies of life can work in relative unison to perpetuate the hoax.

Back to reality now. The truth? The “science” of Creationism isn’t so much science as it is a means for believers to keep their heads buried in the ancient sands of a mythology.

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Jan 31 2010

Sunday Sacrilege: Blood on the Altar

smallchurchbigaltar

I took this photo in a small Sicilian church. Relative to the rest of the church, the altar was quite large and ornate.

What are altars all about? Here’s the etymology of the term:

O.E., from L. altare (pl. altaria), probably originally meaning “burnt offerings” (cf. L. adolere “to worship, to offer sacrifice, to honor by burning sacrifices to”), but infl. by L. altus “high.” [source]

Today millions of people will go to their “high place.” The place where transcendant forces are supposedly manifest. Will they make sacrifices to their most high being? Their ancestors likely did.

Historically speaking, altars got splattered with blood. While the talk of body and blood sacrifice is purely metaphorical today, does that make the ideology any more lofty? In my opinion — to the contrary.

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Jan 17 2010

Sunday Sacrilege: Comfort at a Cost

new tack

Many people have argued that religion provides comfort to people (so back off with the criticism, you insensitive brute!). Part of that comfort is likely the illusion of control and the thought of having done something. Today I prayed and lived as my supernatural guide has instructed me to. So I can relax a little.

But even if religion does provide comfort (I don’t assume that it does simply because so many people claim it does), does that comfort come at a cost? I’m sure it can. The cost of doing something ineffective can include wasted time and wasted energy.

Does religion provide comfort? Maybe. Does this comfort come at a cost? Maybe. But completely besides these moot questions is the bald falsity of fundamental religious claims. And so I believe we should find and/or make better options, even if all those options bring is comfort.

[cartoon thanks to http://www.atheistcartoons.com/]

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