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Posts posted by jcarlson

  1. Frankly, even with all the false dichotomies being thrown about, I don't see where a god necessarily comes into play here.


    If the universe has no true 'beginning' and the big bang expansion is the result of physical phenomena, well, obviously there's no need to invent a god to explain it.


    But even if the universe had a 'beginning' in the sense that it appeared from nothing, why suppose god? You are assuming the spontaneous creation of matter and energy from nothing is an effect which requires a cause, needimprovement, and I don't see why. If this is what happened there is no other known instance of it ever happening. While we see things being "created" from existing matter and energy in everyday life which certainly are "caused", this is not evidence that the universe being "created" from nothing requires a "cause" because they are really two different definitions of "create" (one implying changing existing matter and energy from one form to another, and the other implying matter and energy appearing from nothing), and thus we have nothing to inductively reason from, and therefore no reason to assume a cause is necessary. Just because something is counter-intuitive doesn't mean it's wrong, and therefore doesn't mean you get to invent an arbitrary omnipotent super-being to mend it.

  2. The navy is working on a rail gun atm.



    This was filmed with an ultra-high speed camera. Remember a rail gun uses no explosive charge for propulsion, the flames following the projectile is air molecules that have turned into plasma from the friction between the bullet and the air caused by the extreme velocity.


    Limitations are, as has been stated, power generation and durability of the rails.

  3. FYI - It looks like you were ahead of the curve on this one, jcarlson, when differentiating proof and evidence. Well done, my good man.






    Even the most pious believer has to admit that there is no scientific evidence for God or anything else supernatural. If there were, it would be in the textbooks along with the evidence for electricity, gravity, neutrinos, and DNA. This doesn't bother most believers because they have heard many times that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."


    However, just repeating a statement over and over again does not make it true. I can think of many cases where absence of evidence provides robust evidence of absence. The key question is whether evidence should exist but does not.




    In all of these examples, evidence for God should have been found, but was not. This absence of evidence is evidence of absence. It refutes the common assertion that science has nothing to say about God. In fact, science can say, beyond any reasonable doubt, that God -- the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God -- does not exist.



    I suppose it's time to update how I use this phrase (when and if I do). I should instead say that absence of evidence is not proof of absence. Thanks.



    Thanks for the link! Now I can brag to all my friends (jokingly, of course :D) that I've been plagiarized by Victor Stenger!

  4. Scientists are trained to be experts in their fields. This means they know a lot about those things under the umbrella of their chosen field. However, they know far less, by comparison, with respect to all the other fields of expertise. Religion may not be their strong suit of expertise, and therefore their opinion is more like that of a layman.


    If a physicist commented on evolution, this is not the same as an evolutionary expert. The layman has more freedom to speculate, since he is less aware of all the data, which restricts the opinions of the evolutionary expert.


    One trick to make the layman look like he is the real expert, is to use prestige. The singer with a number 1 hit, may appear to other layman, like he is an expert on global warming, since one assumes he is important, skilled, held up and well paid, so we need to listen. But due to the nature of expertise, he is really an expert song writer, and not an expert meteorologists. We really should consult the experts in the field if the goal is higher understanding. If we wish to be told what we want to hear, so we run with the herd, chose a charismatic layman.


    What would happen if I said, one does not have to be an expert in science, to define important ideas of science? That is irrational, but it would still be a good tactic if my goal was to push my own layman agenda for whatever reason.


    The agnostic scientists are probably the only ones who think and not just parrot the atheist party booklet. They leave the option open since they understand their own limits and don't pretend to be an expert in an area where they lack proper credentials.


    And what 'expertise' does the theologian have that allows him to speculate on the existence of god any more than the scientist? Scientists study for years the data, theories, and experiments that have led to the current state of their field today in order to possess the understanding above and beyond that of a layman needed to further advance it. A theologian may be an expert on ancient languages and texts, or on the various world religions, but this has nothing to do with whether or not the supernatural actually exists; only the particular expression of certain groups of their belief that the supernatural exists. With regard to empirical proof of God's existence, the scientist is far more qualified to address it, and with regard to the various logic-based "proofs" put forth, well, every one put forth that stood a fighting chance throughout history (not surprisingly, they are few) is available for viewing on a 5 minute trip 'round the internet complete with a thorough debunking explaining where and why they are logically bankrupt.


    Any theologian who purports to know more about what is inherently unknowable than any layman is a fraud. There are legitimate fields of study (mostly involving the historical and societal aspects of religion) for a theologian but the nature and existence of god is not one of them.

  5. If all the above is more or less correct, then how did an aquatic, gill-breathing fish become an air-breathing tetrapod as is sometimes alleged?


    It has been mentioned several times in this thread that there are several types of ancient and extant fish that have the ability to breath air via a modified swim bladder. The organs used for breathing air and breathing water are completely unrelated. Some ancient fish with this ability evolved further tetrapodal traits and at one time there were many species similar to Tiktaalik which possessed characteristics of modern day fish and tetrapods. Some of these in turn evolved into the first amphibians; true tetrapods, though the young were born in water and retained the ability of their fish ancestors to breathe water via gils for a period after birth, just like most modern day amphibians.


    How is this not blantantly obvious to you? I'm highly suspicious you're being dishonest with either us intentionally or yourself unintentionally in order to keep the illusion of special creation alive in your brain.

  6. I think it probably is possible to somewhere between the two. I certainly know people who swither between the two, having a very vague feeling that some higher power exists, but not really sure. You could of course argue that they are atheists, with brief moments of theism, I suppose.


    As a theist myself, I find it incredible how some people can argue that theism is, in of itself, evil and responsible for persecution and murder throughout history. Theism is a very very wide brief of viewpoints, philosophies and beliefs and even within religions there is a very wide interpretation of religious teachings. To suggest that I (or my beliefs) am somehow responsible for the burning of witches in the middle ages or the decisions of the Kansas school board, is just ridiculous, and one would have thought that a scientific community like this one really ought to know better.


    In fact, this tarring of theists all with the same brush is discriminatory and prejudiced. People who express these views are committing crass generalisations, judging people worthy or unworthy according to labels, rather than judging each individual on their own merits. We have largely gotten past such things when discussing race and gender, so isn't it time we did the same for philosophical beliefs?


    No one is arguing that theism in and of itself is evil or responsible for persecution and murder, nor is anyone claiming you should be held accountable for witch trials. But one can hardly argue against the fact that belief systems which make virtues of blind faith, unwavering devotion, moral absolutism, and obedience to a supreme will, have lent themselves exceptionally well to some of the most violent atrocities in history. Theism of the kind held by most people is definitely such a system, and as such, while not inherently evil, is certainly inherently dangerous.




    I think this is a good example of a very bad analogy, dreamed up to make religion look silly, which works only to fool stupid people. On the one hand, this sort of thing is probably just the original author (presumably not Maret) not understanding his own argument, but on the other, I suspect this is a deliberate and underhanded attempt to mislead. I also believe that Maret understands very well why this is a crap analogy, so posting this is very dishonest.


    The reason why it is a bad analogy (in case you haven't already realised) is that Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are 'entities' we already know a lot about. We know they are cartoon characters, and we know who thought them up, and we have evidence to back that up. Therefore our disbelief in this scenario is not based on anything to do with them meeting in New Jersey - it is to do with the fact that we know they are cartoon characters. The "evidence that they ever met" is completely superfluous and designed to distract the eye away from the obvious ridiculousness of the situation.


    In order to make it a more appropriate analogy we need to take away our preconceptions about the perpetrators. Let's pretend their names have been removed for security reasons: "[deleted] and [deleted] met in a New Jersey hotel many decades ago to plan the overthrow of the U.S. government and thoroughly destroyed all evidence that they ever met". Do you know think that this is something it would be stupid to believe?


    Yes, without any evidence to support the idea that anyone met in a hotel in New Jersey to overthrow the government why would anyone believe it?

  7. Drinking seawater is known to be very unhealthy.

    There is 3.4 grams of ClNa in a litre; but on a 200 ml. soup would not be too unusual if has 0.68 grams of salt as seasoning (the same proportion) , and would not be detrimental to health.

    Is it because other harmful salts in the seawater or there is something else am missing ?


    I think your figures are a bit off. Wikipedia states there's 35g of dissolved salts per litre, mostly NaCl, 10x what you quoted.


    At that concentration, 1 litre of water contains about 14 times the recommended daily value of sodium as prescribed by the FDA, and you will excrete via urine more water than you intake trying to get rid of the excess salt.

  8. An overall solid post, and I tend to agree with the entire premise.

    One quibble - I think the quote above came first from Dan Dennett, and was only then taken up by Hitchens. Not that it really matters, but maybe some could confirm/refute this?



    I found it HERE and a few other places attributed to physicist Dr. Steven Weinberg from an article in the NY Times in 1999. Hitch certainly has raised its popularity however.

  9. Having said this, those that are or have studied Science, Evolution, Biology or any number of field have in the beginning or over time learned the differences between Science and or Religion are different, possible to a fault on these public (anybody) Science forums. The basic premises alone (faith vs. statistical proof), should tell you this, but don't kid yourself, as these folks grow older or face the realism of mortality, each in their own way will question their life long belief's, hoping in some manner they are wrong, even if not for themselves.


    I can assure you that while there are certainly atheists who don't wish for their experience of consciousness to be continued after death (I've met and spoken with many and I can certainly appreciate the reasoning behind their conviction), I and a good deal many others would very much like to continue on in some conscious form or another after we die (though, for me at least, certainly not in eternal worship of a celestial despot as some would have us believe). However, I can't help but think you naive to think that the fact that we would wish for an extension of our existence, equates to most of us eventually calling into question our belief that we won't get one. For me, and I daresay most of us, our atheism is defined by our skepticism. Just because we would like for something like an afterlife to be true in no way means we would believe it in the face of such a gaping lack of evidence for its existence. Our comfort in the face of death comes from knowing that we unabashedly faced what we best know to be the truth, no matter how apparently grim; that we did our best with what we know we had, as opposed to deluding ourselves with false hopes of receiving something more grand.



    There really is a difference between the extremist wing of atheism, who post intemperate comments on discussion boards and the extremist theists who kill people.

    It really doesn't make sense to say that the former are the ones full of hatred.


    Before you can discuss the question "Why the anger?" you need to ask "Is there much anger?" and, compared to the theists, the answer seems to be no.


    Don't atheists also know how to band together and kill people who disagree with them?




    The Agrarian Reform Law of August 1945 nationalized most property of religious institutions, including the estates of monasteries, orders, and dioceses. Many clergy and believers were tried, tortured, and executed.


    Though the constitution of Democratic Kampuchea guaranteed the right to worship according to any religion and the right not to worship according to any religion, it also provided that "Reactionary religions which are detrimental to Democratic Kampuchea and Kampuchean people are absolutely forbidden."[57] Religious people were killed in the killing fields, as the leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, suppressed Cambodia’s Buddhists: monks were defrocked; temples and artifacts, including statues of Buddha, were destroyed; and people praying or expressing other religious sentiments were often killed. The Christian and Muslim communities were among the most persecuted, as well. The Roman Catholic cathedral of Phnom Penh was completely razed. The Khmer Rouge forced Muslims to eat pork, which they regard as an abomination. Many of those who refused were killed. Christian clergy and Muslim imams were executed.[58][59] Forty-eight percent of Cambodia's Christians were killed because of their religion.


    Absolutely, there is no doubt that especially in the first half of the last century there have been horrible atrocities committed by some of the world's most prominent atheists at the time. And certainly, without a truly clairvoyant knowledge of the inner thoughts of Stalin, Pot, and their ilk, one can speculate that their true motivations were founded in an underlying atheistic hatred of all religion and a desire to extinguish it from their territories.


    It is also true that, with respect to the many instances of religious genocide and oppression over the millenia, such as the christian persecution by the Romans, the crusades, the Inquisition, witch trials, the Islamic conquest and recent resurgence in Islamic extremism, one can speculate on the true intentions of the leadership presiding over those atrocities, and come to the conclusion that for them, it wasn't a religious motivation at all, but rather a desire for political influence and/or more vassals to fill their coffers. Indeed, this is my own personal belief.


    This of course, begs the question: How can anyone make the claim that religion is responsible for far more deaths and atrocities committed throughout history than atheism without knowing the true motivations of the evil men in power who initiated these movements?


    The answer, I postulate, lies in the simple fact that the personal motivations of these men really didn't matter. It takes a large base of support from the populace to commit atrocities on such a scale, and, because most humans don't readily relish the idea of taking another life for no apparent reason, the people must be sold. They must be given motivation which is strong enough to overcome their natural resistance to slay others in cold blood. Without a doubt, in every instance mentioned attributed to religion, this motivating factor was the will of a deity. The leadership may have had ulterior motivations, but in the minds of the people they were acting under the mandate of God.


    It is much more difficult I think, in the case of the genocides under Stalin, Pot, et al., to make the case that the people were motivated by mere atheism in their support for their leaders. No, indeed it was the worship of the state, and the perceived threat to its superiority that religion posed, that they marshaled under. Your own quote regarding Pot's exterminations in Cambodia attests to this: His supporters believed in earnest that the people they killed were members of "reactionary religions" which were "detrimental to Democratic Kampuchea and Kampuchean people".


    Christopher Hitchens is somewhat famous for promoting the saying "Good people do good things and evil people do evil things; but to make a good person do evil, that takes religion". While I'm not sure I'm in complete agreement (I think there are other things that have the potential to make good people do evil things, perhaps even, in rare cases, atheism), it seems to me that if the worship of the state which was so heavily promoted in the communist ideology of the 20th century was not religion, it was certainly something very much like it. And it seems that a comprehensive view of history shows that when it comes to genocide, oppression, and other implementations of crimes against humanity, there is no easier or more effective banner to rally the people under than religion.

  10. Why not? If I am arguing about the illogicality of atheism, why can I not pick and choose my definition of god? After all, the atheist position is to deny the existence of any god.


    I would say that this is (subtly) not true. The atheist position is to lack belief in any god (for reasonable definitions of god).


    If they don't define the god they are denying, then surely I am free to choose? So, I will refute their position in the easiest way I can by using the most easily defended definition of "god" for my argument. This definition may not be the definition of my own God, but (when I take this approach) we are discussing your belief, not mine.


    You could certainly take this route, but I fail to see how it helps your position. If you believe in the Christian god but define "god" as the lamp sitting at your bedside (a definition of god who's existence would be supremely easy to defend), what good does it do you? Even though I am an atheist if you choose to call your lamp a god I would not argue against its existence!


    In fact, this is one of the biggest problems when discussing with atheists. They move the goalpost about what god they are or are not allowed to include. One moment they are denying the existence of a god who created a flat Earth in 6 days with no mention of the dinosaurs, and then use that argument to claim the non-existence of any definition of god, including those with no testable consequences. You can't have it both ways, atheists.


    I think you will find that the frequency of atheists who use such a dishonest tactic in debate is far lower than that of theists, but if you have encountered atheists who do this, they are wrong. It's true that many of the logical and empirical arguments used by atheists are broad-sweeping; they have to be with so many definitions of god in use by theists. But each is still weighed for applicability before use against a specific definition of god.

  11. You gain weight by consuming more usable energy than you use.

    You lose weight by consuming less usable energy than you use.


    So there are two ways to lose weight, consume less or use more.


    So if you starve yourself (consume less usable energy), you can lose weight just sitting around thinking, though I doubt you'll be able to think about much besides how hungry you are.


    The alternative is of course, exercise (using more energy), which, in addition to the weight loss, has other health benefits including increased muscular strength and stamina. (Hint: This is generally the healthy way to go).

  12. A God doesn't have to be a human. A God doesn't have to be human in form, it can also be something virtual.


    For example the electron and the photon could be two Gods. The electron for example spans so many academic fields like electrical engineering, condensed matter physics, chemistry, nanoelectronics and so on so the electron could very well be considered a God. So does the photon. Theoretical/mathematical physicists would probably regard mathematics and superstrings to be their God.


    I believe there is some sort of higher force or a higher principle to the world but that is not quite the same as a God.



    This, to me, is the biggest problem for theists that arises when debating them on the existence of "God". In the presence of good arguments, they consistently change the goalposts with regard to their definition of "God" so much, that a coherent understanding of even the minimal qualities necessary to make something "God" is impossible. All too often I have seen a theist define "God" simply as "that which caused the universe" (usually when attempting to present the cosmological argument), and then not 10 seconds later "God" is back to being a benevolent, personal, intrusive, conscious, supernatural being, with absolutely zero logical justification behind the switch.


    You can't have it both ways, theists, especially not when trying to construct rational arguments for your belief in debate. And, with that being said, isn't it funny that the more robust an argument for "God", the more limited in scope and abstractly defined "God" is? And even these arguments contain logical hiccups or faulty assumptions. I would be tickled pink to see a theist go so far as define "God" as protons and electrons, or even fundamental particles and natural laws. It's something they seem to be coming ever asymptotically closer to, and if they do ever make that leap, I, and many others, I'm sure, will not hesitate to take that for what it is: An admission of defeat to a materialistic worldview.

  13. Considering the fact that there are something like 30 billion trillion (3*10^22) stars in the observable universe, even if only one in 10 billion stars has a planet similar to what earth was 3.5 billion years ago when life formed (and it seems, instead, that the odds are much higher), that's still 3 trillion planets with favorable conditions for the formation of life, and that's only life as WE know it.


    Statistically, life elsewhere in the universe is likely. However I think the odds of ever meeting them or even communicating with them is much lower, due to the fact that most of the stars in the universe are in other galaxies which are far to distant to have any hope of contact.


    I don't see how recognizing this fact is at odds with not believing in god. There is evidence that life can arise spontaneously in the universe, given the right conditions. We're it. Given the vastness of the universe and the immense population of possible host star systems, it is reasonable to believe these conditions exist elsewhere in the universe as well. On the flip-side, there isn't any evidence of any kind of supernatural deity.

  14. I think you will find that there are plenty of positions outside of academia for someone with a PhD in CS without having to work below your qualifications. Larger tech companies like IBM, AT&T, Intel, Oracle, Microsoft, etc. all have very robust research divisions where the expertise that comes with a PhD is not just welcome but required for many projects. As D H said there is far greater demand for PhDs outside academia in technical degrees than non-technical simply because research in these fields more often produces knowledge that is profitable, rather than just knowledge for knowledge's sake.

  15. An important point left unsolved by the symbolism of Christ dying to reconcile God and man after mankind's fall into sin is why further suffering or injury, whether of man, God, Christ, or anything else is able to 'pay' a debt. If under modern tort law I negligently damage your car, no court would regard the injury as made good by my wrecking my own car in return, or the two of us going out and destroying someone else's car. What pays a debt is undoing the damage, like giving you money to repair your car, not causing further damage.


    The only reason that Christ's suffering and 'death' ever seemed a rational way to reconcile God and mankind by settling the debt is that this was consistent with the irrational superstitions of the Eastern Mediterranean cultures of the time, according to which two neighbors having a feud over some issue could settle it by getting together and slaughtering a sacrificial goat and then consecrating it to some pagan deity. Christ's death is analogous to the death of the sacrificial goat or lamb, so it can seem to solve the problem mythologically, though logically of course the whole concept of damaging X to make good the damage to Y makes no sense.


    Indeed, in Leviticus 16 the Old Testament even describes the ancient practice of "scapegoating" (from whence we get the modern term), where the townspeople quite literally piled their sins on a goat and drove it out into the arid wilderness to die. Other cultures from the middle east at that time had similar practices, as well.

  16. I could be wrong, but wasn't part of the reason Jesus' was able to forgive our sins was that he descended into hell for three days? Or is the harrowing of hell and the forgiveness of sin unrelated?


    Whether or not Jesus went to hell should have no effect on what an omnipotent god is ABLE to do. Most Christians say that Jesus went to hell in order to know the suffering that mankind endures (which God is ultimately responsible for) without forgiveness, but an omniscient god should already know what that suffering was like by virtue of the fact that it knows everything.


    Like I said, all very obtuse.


    I suppose "You guys have really screwed up, but hey, I forgive it all," without any drama, would be sending the wrong message to all the Earthly troublemakers.


    Perhaps, but then, what message does god suffering for the sins instead of the people send? Essentially, "You guys have really screwed up, but hey, I forgive it all" IS the message that was sent, it was just sent along with a gory spectacle of suffering for humanity to witness.

  17. The theological view is that God did not create sin; rather, he created us with free will, and we chose to disobey.




    That's the trick of the Incarnation. Because Jesus was human, he was paying the debt rather than God just forgiving; because he was simultaneously God, he was actually capable of paying back the debt. The Trinity (or at least a man-God duality) is required for the doctrine of the incarnation to succeed.


    Still does not explain why God, who is supposedly a benevolent, omnipotent being with the power to forgive the sins of humanity on a whim should he so choose, instead decided that it was necessary to impregnate a virgin in order to incarnate himself in human form and die, burn in hell for 3 days, then rise from the dead like a zombie before physically flying back up to heaven before the debt was forgiven.


    It's awfully obtuse.

  18. Perhaps think of it this way:


    When you initially pick a door out of 3, there is a 1/3 probability that your door holds the prize, and a 2/3 probability that the two other doors hold the prize.


    When one of the two other doors is revealed, it doesn't change the fact that there is a 2/3 probability that the other 2 doors hold the prize, but since you know which of those other 2 doors doesn't have the prize, it means the unopened of the other 2 doors now has a 2/3 probability of holding the prize.


    Your original door also still has only a 1/3 chance of holding the prize, therefore, you should always switch to the other door, if given the option after the host opens one.

  19. I was rather hoping to die while committing a sin, actually a rather specific sin but that's not important....


    Let me guess... you want to die while eating a lobster, in front of the calf you just cast out of gold to worship, while wearing a shirt made of linen/wool blend, and screaming "God Damnit!"?

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