There is a well known example that supporters of science use when refuting the idea of a perfect creator. The example is the laryngeal nerve. This nerve supplies motor function and sensation to the larynx. What is unusual about it is that, even though the larynx is located in the throat in most invertebrates, it follows a path down from the throat, into the chest, and back up to the brain, rather than the shorter and more obvious route of going straight from the throat and up to the brain.
In referring to Richard Dawkins use of the laryngeal nerve argument, Wikipedia states:
“The extreme detour of this nerve (over fifteen feet in giraffes) is cited as evidence of evolution as opposed to intelligent design. The nerve’s route would have been direct in the fish-like ancestors of modern tetrapods, traveling from the brain, past the heart, to the gills (as it does in modern fish). Over the course of evolution, as the neck extended and the heart became lower in the body, the laryngeal nerve was caught on the wrong side of the heart. Natural selection gradually lengthened the nerve by tiny increments to accommodate, resulting in the absurdly circuitous route now observed, which, if designed, could only be described as unintelligent.”
I’ve heard this argument against intelligent design given many times and in different ways, some more effective than others, but as is often the case, humor and satire can serve to drive the point home much better than any physical evidence or well articulated argument can.
Jonathan Rosenberg draws the funny, topical, and skeptical Scenes From A Multiverse. Today’s installment address this particular augment with great hilarity and precision. It is a perfect surgical strike against the idea of a perfect creator, and leaves us with the conclusion that god either does not exist or, if he does, is just plain stupid. The next to the last panel says it all.
Believers often ask me to prove to them that God does not exist. The only evidence that I can offer is that there is no evidence. Now, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, so just by saying that there is no convincing evidence that there isn’t a god doesn’t mean that there isn’t.
The real issue here is that I don’t have to prove anything. The onus is on the believer to prove that their god does exists. Most believers don’t see it this way. I could spend hours, and many a scientist, and atheist has, trying to explain how the scientific method and the rules of logic work to believers, but I’d get nowhere. They usually just don’t get it. It is for this reason that I have refused to try to tackle this issue of proving the non-existence of god, or anything else for that matter.
So, you may ask, why am I addressing this issue now? Because I found a lovely illustration that does one of the best jobs of showing why I don’t have to prove the nonexistence of god, and believers do.
By Shelly Rau at http://beautifullychaotic.deviantart.com/
The website atheism.about.com has a really good article examining if astrology is pseudoscience or science. While I agree that astrology is bullshit, that is not what, I think, is the real take away point from the article. You could easily subsitute any number of questionable practices such as “psychic powers” or “homeopathy” for astrology.
The real importance of the article is how well it explains the scientific method. The reason this is important is that so many people have no concept of what the scientific method is and how it works. This leads to a gross misunderstanding and mistrust of science. This is bad because it leads to the undermining of scientific advancement in our society, a society that, more and more, is very dependent on the technology that science gives us.
There is a sad and firghtening trend in this country of mistrust, and even hostility, toward science. This kind of anti-science belief used to be confined to the radical right or left wing movements. The religious right fights against science when it contradicts the Bible (which is does the vast majority of the time). The radical left distrusts it because it is not “natural”, and they fear the possible misuses of science. Now, however, anti-science beliefs and rhetoric have become the norm. We see this in the current election cycle where Republican candidates are falling all over themselves to see who can be more anti-science than the rest.
It used to be that the GOP trumpeted the benefits of science as a way to make our society stronger, better, and safer. Does anyone remember the “Star Wars” program of the Reagan era? How about the Space Race? In this country, the military has always been a major driving force in advancing science and technology. It will be interesting to see how the military responds to the ever growing hostility of the GOP to science, considering that most of the military leadership has tended to be republican, as evidinced by the many generals who have gone into politics after retiring from their military careers.
This country used to be a leader in science and technology and that is what made it a great economic and military power. If this anti-science trend continues, we can only sit back and watch as our scientific technological leadership slips away and our economy because a totally consumer driven one, dependent on the technology of other countries who put science above superstition.
I was browsing my favorite art site, deviantart.com, a few days ago and came across this painting. A nicely done picture of Jesus titled, My Best Friend. My tollerence of bullshit was very low at that particular time (lower than it ususlly is!). In a fit of pique I left a simple, harsh, comment, “I’m sorry”.
Today, the artist who made that picture sent me a note. Here is the exchange:
i read your comment on my work.,my best friend,….and this has many interpretations…
may i ask your reason for being sorry…so that i may comment accordingly my friend…I’m sorry that your best friend is someone who doesn’t exist, or at least who you can’t see, touch, or hear. I believe that this life is precious and that it is all that we are sure that we have. For me, to put emotions into something that you can’t be sure is there is a waste. It does you and the people around you a disservice. By expending time, emotion, and even love on something that may or may not be real takes that time, emotion, and love away from the people around you who need it here, now.
I am not trying to say that you shouldn’t believe in Jesus, but you live in this world with people who love you and need you. Make the most of it and give yourself and those you love every minute you have, every bit of love that you can. If after doing this, you feel you still have time and energy left for Jesus, great. But to say that he is your best friend is an insult to your real friends, who are here now and who need you.
I’m getting sick of seeing “Pray for Japan” signs and slogans everywhere on the Internet. How is praying for Japan going to help? If god actually cared about Japan in the first place he wouldn’t have allow the earthquake and tsunami to happen so why ask him now to help people he obviously was intent on destroying in the first place? Unless he didn’t want the earthquake and tsunami to happen, then he is not all powerful so why bother asking him to intervene? If he didn’t have the power to stop it in the first place what makes you believe that he can do anything to help now? Ah, you say, the earthquake and tsunami were his will. Well then, if it was his will, the why try to get him to do anything since whatever is going to happen is also his will so prayer wouldn’t make a difference anyway.
Prayer by its very nature is an attempt to get god to do something that we want him to do, or in other words, to try to get him to change the outcome of a future that he has already planned out anyway. In this case then, prayer is useless. God has decided what will happen and asking for things to work out differently than what he has planned is useless, so therefore prayer is useless. The only reasonable course of action in a universe with an all-knowing god is to just go with the flow. If you pray and it works out how you wanted, it was going to be that way anyway so your prayer effectively had no effect. If you pray and it doesn’t work out the way you wanted then it wasn’t god’s will and again, your prayer had no effect. Praying does nothing to help or change anything because god has already decided what is going to happen anyway. Of course all this assumes that an all-powerful, all-knowing god even exists. You all should know by now how I feel about that.
If you really want to help Japan, donate time or money to organizations that are actually doing something to help. Pray if it makes you feel better, but don’t assume that your prayer will in anyway help anyone.
A dear friend of mine posted some disturbing videos from Indonesia of people being stoned to death for one religious offense or another on her Facebook profile to highlight the terrible violence that religion continues to inspire. She changed her profile photo to
I found what I consider to be a much more accurate version of the Coexist sign above,
*by http://dailyatheist.deviantart.com/. Used with permission.
I’m not a graphic artist, but I’m sure if I had the talent I could come up with other signs that contained more “truthiness” that the Coexist one.
Of course, the Coexist message represents something to strive for and as such it serves its purpose well. If religious coexistence was a fact, we wouldn’t need the logo in the first place.
While I fully support efforts for peoples of all faith to coexist, my feelings, as I said in my response to one of the videos, is that to coexist we must see each other as fellow humans, not as believers and unbelievers and until we can throw off all vestiges of religions, that can never happen. As long as people allow religion to guide how they live their lives, the violence and hatred will continue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but we need to be realistic about just how insidious the influence of religion really is and how very difficult it will be to change that.
A childhood friend on FB responded to my post, The Bible is the Literal Word of God; Except When Its Not. Here is what he said:
“have you read the Bible? or are you simply regurgitating ignorance from others? I have offered answers, yet I have not been taken up on this. Again, it is very irresponsible to propagate unsubstantiated opinions. Why this venom towards Christians and the Bible? If you wish to be an athiest be one, that is your right. Why the all out war on the belief of others. What is freethinking? Oh just freedom to think apart from responsibility and accountablity? Freedom from any form of religious thinking? Maybe free thinking should be folks who examine an issue and think for themselves. Not simply robots who cannot originate a though for themselves. Freethinking is a misnomer”
Yes, I’ve read the bible, cover to cover, at least twice, and many parts of it, the New Testament especially, many, many times over the years. It was this almost continual reading of the bible that made me see more and more contradictions that I just couldn’t rationalize away. Then I studied the history of the writing of the New Testament, how there were originally hundreds of gospels and competing camps of bishops supporting one version of the theology against the others. I learned about the political machinations that took place to arrive at the New Testament we have now. It was, totally and completely, cover to cover, created to fulfill political agendas of the most powerful bishops and the rulers who backed them.
Why do I have such venom toward the bible and the people who misuse it (I refuse to lump all Christians into one group as this would be irresponsible)? Ask Madeline Neumann, a 12-year-old girl whose parents, based on their religion, allowed her to die of diabetic ketoacidosis rather than save her life by allowing physicians to administer insulin and fluids. They thought prayer would save her. It didn’t. Ask the thousands of people who have been killed over the last 2000 years for their refusal to follow the prevailing version of Christianity. Ask the irresponsible ministers and political leaders who wish to brand homosexuals as immoral, second-class citizens. Ask the 156,000,000 women who’s reproductive organs are held hostage by a religiously motivated white, male, privileged class of cretins.
I wage an all out war on anything that conspires to take rights away from people. That includes holier-than-thou Christians, militant, closed minded Muslims, Zionistic Jews willing to steal and kill to get their land, white supremacists who wish to overthrow the U.S Government, wide-eyed, white, privileged Greenpeace and PETA people who would rater see millions starve and die of disease than allow GM foods and medicines tested on animals be developed that could save countless lives.
Christianity is my main focus because, almost without exception, all of the people in this country right now who would seek to take rights away from others self-identify as Christians and claim that their sense of morality comes from their religion. If things change and the largest group of privileged people in power become Muslims or Hindus or Wiccans, I’ll fight them just as loudly and forcefully.
I don’t claim to be able to tell people how to live their lives. As long as no one is being harmed, taken advantage of, or being forced either by law or by custom to kowtow to some group’s beliefs, then I say let people believe whatever they like. You can believe in God and Jesus, you can believe that Homosexuals will go to hell, but keep that belief within your churches and homes, don’t force it on others.
I don’t go door to door trying to get people not to believe in God. I don’t support any law that would outlaw any kind of religion or religious belief. I don’t lobby for my personal beliefs to be the law of the land, but don’t try to tell me that Christians aren’t doing that every day, in every town and state in the country. When the Christian majority (and yes, you are well over a 70% majority) tries to tell the rest of us what we can do and say and believe and think, then yes, I will fight for my rights and the rights of everyone else who are forced to listen to people tell us we are less American and less patriotic than they are because we don’t believe in their god. This country was founded on religious freedom (freedom for and from religion) and freedom of conscience, not on Christianity or any other religion. Yes, I will fight for that kicking and screaming, every fucking step of the way.
Atheist Revolution has a nice entry about how the bible condemns public prayer. I’m waiting to see what kind of spin the Christian apologists will put on that one. I have talked about this whole, the-bible-is-literal-except-for-the-parts-I-don’t-like phenomenon before here. There is a technical name for this, coined by Penn & Teller; it’s called BULLSHIT.
I want to quote from that piece of mine that I mentioned above and elaborate a bit on it:
Jay Walker: So how do you decide what parts of the “Old Testament” to believe and which parts not to? I thought the whole bible was the word of god? I’m not asking to be sarcastic, I’m honestly curious.
Bob Santaniello: It isn’t a decision; I believe as you said, all of the Old and New Testaments is the true word of God as given to men by the Holy Spirit. The deciding part is to hermeneutically figure out to whom the different parts were written, why things were written, the cultural surroundings in which they were written, the style of writing – poetry, symbolism, narrative, prophetic – most all can be found in them. The more I study God’s word, the better I come to understanding Him and in building a relationship with Him – and how to live according to His word. 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells how Bible truth is revealed to mankind.
So the bible is literally true, except when it is poetic, symbolic, or whatever else the apologist decides best fits his current bullshit explanation of the “word of God”. For some reason, the all-powerful, all-knowing god, although he writes quite persuasively, can’t seem to write very clearly. You would think that a deity the likes of which Christians describe would be able to get his message across clearly and succinctly. I’ve known 9th graders who were able to write much more lucidly and get their point across with infinitely more clarity that this all knowing, all add-your-grandiose-trait here, ne plus ultra deity (I used to teach high school English so I’ve seen plenty of 9th grade writings so I know that of which I speak.)
The bible is ragtag collection of manmade texts with no self-consistency of facts, theology or history, if anything, the contradictions within them are glaring and numerous. There are numerous sources that I could cite, two excellent ones are Biblical Nonsense: A Review Of The Bible For Doubting Christians, by Jason Long and Self-Contradictions of the Bible, by William Henry Burr. You can also google “bible contradictions” and that will turn up hundreds of sites with thousands of examples.
Christians would have you believe that the bible is akin to a sports or game rulebook for living life.
Here is an exercise that you yourself can do to approximate the clarity and explanatory power of the bible:
- Acquire rulebooks for baseball, basketball, polo, monopoly, chess, poker and horseshoes.
- Carefully tear each page out of each rulebook.
- Throw all the pages up in the air. (It would help if there was a fairly stiff breeze).
- Collect them all up and throw them into one big pile.
- Organize them into a stack so that all pages are orientated the same way.
- Staple, tape, or bind them all together in a binder.
- Now, on the outside of the binder write, “The Bible”.
Viola! Your very own rule book that makes just as much sense and was organized in much the same way the book Christians call their bible. You and your friends will have just as much trouble figuring your book out as Christians do theirs.
If you do decide to try this experiment, please, for the love of all that is good, burn your book as soon as you are done leafing through it so that some nut doesn’t find it and start preaching that he’s found the true way to play the game of life.
Here is an interview with Frank Zappa where he discusses the danger of the Religious right’s growing influence within the U.S. Government. It was relevant then during the Reagan era and it is just as relevant now.
This is hosted on my sister site, Freethinking4dummies.org. This a bit more personal than my blog here, so if you are interested about the guy behind Freethinking For Dummies, enjoy!
Here is an illuminating comment on my earlier post from a reader, Sas, and my reply:
- Thanks for this . I have been appalled by some men’s attitudes – I left Christianity hoping for an equal world and was horrified to see the same old crap in the atheist camp. ” girls are naturally less intelligent that’s why they go to church ” No you twat, church has free childcare and you don’t get touched up. Treat women right and they’ll join you. Also try to understand that liking men and sex doesn’t mean they will sleep with any man – ESP not the older ones who think we are gagging for a father figure… Comment by Sas | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
- Ps lots of men don’t like sex and will make you feel bad for asking for it. Strangely they lie about that to their male friends. Comment by Sas | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
- Sas, I agree with you completely. Men need to understand that just because a woman is sexually liberated doesn’t mean she will sleep with everyone, especially them. Yes, biology is powerful. Yes, males evolved to try to have sex with as many females as possible in order to pass on their genes. But to use this as an excuse to treat women solely as sexual objects is disingenuous and wrong. This only supports the theists’ contention that atheists are all amoral darwinists. We are moral creatures who have the benefit of intelligence and rational thought to rise above our evolutionary imperatives, especially when they interfere with our ability to responsibly interact with each other. Comment by Jay Walker | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply