Reasons for Joy; In Gentleness, and Respect.

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Moral Argument / Animal Morality
« on: October 17, 2016, 04:49:24 am »
Evolution explains morality quite nicely since morality can be observed in the animal kingdom. I can cite a personal example. I have two cats. They absolutely hate each other. I can count on there being several cat-fights a day. However, there are certain occasions when there is a mutual truce in force. No cat will attack the other cat when the other cat is eating, going to the bathroom, or sleeping. Some sort of moral code is in play under those circumstances.

There are many examples of animals coming to the aid of other animals. One case I can cite is a cockatoo tangled up in some wires. Other cockatoos brought the entangled bird food. It had a happy ending when humans came to the rescue and freed the bird.

Stories of dolphins protecting humans from sharks are legendary. Dogs guarding and defending a companion dog that's been injured, even against humans who are coming to help the injured dog, are a well established natural moral phenomena. You don't have to dig too far into the literature to uncover lots of examples of members of one species behaving morally toward other members of the same species even when they don't have to and they derive no benefits by doing so.

Cats, cockatoos, dolphins, and dogs haven't read the Bible. The concept of God and God's [alleged] morality is meaningless to them. They didn't get their morality from God.

Apologetics and Theology / The Concept of a Soul
« on: October 17, 2016, 04:47:49 am »
The trouble here is that ‘the soul’ has so many diverse definitions that it can mean just about anything you want it to mean. Probably no two people would describe the concept in the exact same way. However, I think we can agree that an egg cell has no soul – however you define it. A sperm cell has no soul – however you define it. Therefore, at conception, you have no soul. No cell has a soul, therefore no tissue (a group of common cells) has a soul, therefore no body organ has a soul (an organ being composed of various tissues), therefore you, as a collection of various organs and organ systems must have no soul!

So when did you get a soul (assuming there is such a thing and that it has some degree of tangibility)? Did you get your soul at birth? Perhaps it was on your first birthday? Perhaps you received you soul when you became of age, say 21. Perhaps it’s just as likely that you don’t receive a soul at all – there is no such separate and apart physical thing you get from any higher authority. Perhaps your soul just develops or evolves naturally as part and parcel of your growing maturity over the years, in which case it can’t be totally separate and apart from the body. In other words, if you develop a soul akin to your developing a sense of morality or spirituality, then it can not ‘leave’ the body after death. Translated, your soul (however you define it) isn’t your ticket to an afterlife. It resides somewhere in that brain-thingy of yours, locked somewhere within that maze of biochemistry that collectively makes up your grey matter. As an aside, if you were to clone yourself, would your clone have a soul?

So, do you have a soul? Nope! The burden of proof is on those who advocate that humans possess an indestructible, immaterial ‘soul’ that exists separate and apart from the body and which survives the body’s demise. If such proof (or even evidence) were set in stone the is-there-or-isn’t-there debate would have ended long ago. No one can demonstrate where the soul comes from, how it becomes a part of you, or where it goes to after you’re gone. No one can explain how an immaterial concept can contain hardcore data – your essence in other words. Does a person with a multiple personality disorder and sense of selves (instead of just a self) have more than one soul? I think not. There’s also the double standard of humans anointing themselves with a soul but not animals. This is another example of humans patting themselves on the back without justification. 

Apologetics and Theology / The Ultimate Questions (and Answers)
« on: October 17, 2016, 04:46:08 am »
Is there one? I know that it (‘life, the universe and everything’) was asked in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and that the answer was ‘42’, but I don’t think we’ll count that as philosophically meaningful. I also think we need to exclude personal reflections or personal ultimate questions like ‘who am I’ or ‘where am I going’ or ‘what is my purpose in life’, etc. Ultimately, when it comes to personal reflections, only you can ask and answer such questions yourself using whatever tools you have at your disposal.

Is there any preordained point or preconceived purpose to the Universe? That is do we have any implication that the ever evolving and expanding Universe has a goal or seeks to achieve something? Does the Universe possess some sort of special (undefined but natural) force or quality such that its origin and evolution has an ultimate unique meaning? Or does it just exist with no more purpose than say a cosmic ray has? This question is probably somewhat outside the realm of physics and cosmology, but that sure hasn’t stopped physicists and cosmologists from putting in their two cents worth! Anyway, here’s my two cents.

Well I think we can all agree that the fundamental particles (electrons, quarks, etc.) that make up all the matter and transmit all the forces, and the atoms they in turn make up, and the molecules that atoms form by linking up and bonding with other atoms, even the most complex of them, merely obey various natural physical and chemical ‘laws’ (they are very law abiding), having no choice in the matter given that they have no independent free will or decision making abilities or the ways and means of emitting emotions. They have no intellect, cannot comprehend themselves, far less anything else.

We’d all probably agree that all the macro non-organic things that particles and forces, atoms and molecules make up, like stars (and groups of stars like galaxies) and planets and associated debris likewise obey natural ‘laws’ and also have no intellect or ability to emote. In other words, the Sun and the Moon don’t know you, have no means of knowing you, they can’t deduce you exist and therefore can hardly care that you exist (or don’t exist or cease to exist for that matter). Since there was an era in the history of the Universe when only that sort of stuff existed, the sort of stuff we agree was never intellectual and emotive, one can hardly imagine the Universe then, all this collection of stuff, in a pre-life era, having any purpose or objective or goal, or agenda (or whatever other synonymous word you have in mind).

At this point, one question raises its head and requires an answer, and that is where did all the natural ‘laws’ that rule the Universe (and all that it contains) come from? Well, the way I see it, there are X number of fundamental particles – the ultimate building blocks from which all else flows – like quarks and electrons. Each type of fundamental particle has an intrinsic value to a number of properties, values unique to it and it alone. These properties are mass, and spin and charge, and the like. All of these fundamental particles, the bits and pieces of the Universe, interact with other bits and pieces. Anytime bit A interacts with piece B, you’ll get a result, AB. You’ll always get AB. If bit A interacts with particle C, you’ll get result AC and not, say, AB. And so on and so on. We interpret AB and AC, etc. as ‘laws’ because specific results occur in a consistent manner whenever specific bits and pieces interact. And so on up the scale it goes. Two atoms of hydrogen interact with one atom of oxygen, giving water – not, say table salt now and then. If the reverse were true, if two atoms of hydrogen plus one atom of oxygen sometimes yielded table salt, or if A + B sometimes gave AC, or BC or XYZ, then the stuff of the Universe would be unstable at best and hence we’d have a Universe not exactly conducive to life, and so we wouldn’t be around to ask the question in the first place.

At some stage however, by the laws of probability, sheer chance, by accident (no preconceived purpose or goal involved) a small part of our stuff, under the general natural ‘laws’ inherent in physics and chemistry, became organised enough, complex enough, to qualify as something we’d all agree on as ‘life’. Say a proto-cell, even a microbe. The question now is, does a microbe emote or have an intellect? No. It has however achieved purpose – survival and reproduction and things of that ilk. So, now a tiny part of the Universe has a purpose, but the microbe certainly didn’t absorb or learn this concept of purpose from the wider outside Universe since the wider outside Universe doesn’t have this concept as part of it’s makeup in the first place. 

Ultimately microbes evolve and life got even more complex, complex enough that traits such as intellect and emotion took on some form of reality. But again, it was inherited from what came before. So, does the Universe have a purpose? No. Do some parts of the Universe express a purpose, or intellect or ability to emote? Yes. But it’s not a universal one as different bits have (to a greater or lesser degree) somewhat different purposes, intellects and emotions. An electron is an electron is an electron, but an octopus (having a purpose, intellect and ability to emote) isn’t a cockatoo which isn’t a human both of which also have purposes, intellects and emotions. Even one human obviously differs from another human with respect to these traits. Question: does the fact that terrestrial life in general or humans in particular, exist, impart some sort of higher meaning or purpose to the Universe at large? Not on your Nellie!

Let’s take a simple case and assume that life is confined to Planet Earth (although the argument holds even if extraterrestrial life exists). Let’s further assume that an uncaring, un-intellectual,  asteroid, with no goal or purpose to its existence apart from the fact that it just is, slams into our planet and all life goes kaput! Or perhaps our uncaring Sun goes nova, achieving the same result. Then the Universe is totally back to square one – an assorted collection of primitive stuff with no laudable purpose, no intellect, no ability to emote – no agenda, hidden or otherwise. My conclusion is that life (high or low) is an unplanned for occurrence in a Universe that has no purpose – the Universe just is, in all its uncaring glory.

Thus I will say again however that there is no purpose to the Universe – it just is, a given, totally inanimate like it or lump it. You are an irrelevancy as far as the Universe is concerned – not that it has a consciousness where the concept of concerned could even arise. So, the Universe, as far as we all are concerned, is impartial, uncaring, has no mercy for those foolish enough to put themselves in harms way, and ultimately doesn’t give a stuff about you, your existence, your suffering. In fact, if Planet Earth and all it contained were to disappear down a Black Hole this instant, the Universe would go on its merry way, no more noticing the loss than you notice the flaking off of a dead skin cell.   

Apart from that, I’d wager if you asked 1000 ordinary people, even 1000 philosophers, religious leaders, scientists, etc. about an ultimate question, you’d probably get 500 different answers! Therefore, I doubt that there is any such thing as an ultimate question (and therefore no ultimate answer), certainly nothing that’s going to enlighten us about ‘just who is this God person anyway?’

*Of all of William Lane Craig's reasons for believing in a Christian God, this last reason is his be-all-and-end-all for believing. No matter what evidence is ever presented to the contrary, his personal experience of a personal God trumps everything else. His pure belief that he knows God and that God knows him will override any such contrary evidence to his theistic worldview, and you can find several of his statements on YouTube that verifies this.

*Firstly, the easiest person to fool is yourself! Secondly, personal experiences are just that - personal and subjective. What you spiritually experience cannot be verified by any independent means and thus constitutes zero objective evidence, no matter how much you personally believe. People experience all manner of events that are intensely personal, even spiritual, from encounters with angels with golden plates to ghosts and aliens to out-of-body experiences, to all manner of visions both in and out of altered states of consciousness. Unless there are other forms of independently verifiable evidence, "I know what I saw" remains absolutely centred on the word "I". "I" know that God exists does not prove that God exists.

A Few Additional Thoughts

*William Lane Craig believes in the existence of God because he has had a personal spiritual experience of God. No doubt some Muslims have had a deep personal experience of Allah and the Hindus of Brahma and one could well imagine some ancient Greeks having a really spiritual experience if not an actual encounter with Aphrodite. Shamans across the social and cultural board have all manner of mystic / religious / spiritual experiences. It's part of their job description and a requirement of their 'profession' as it were.

*But further to the issue behind this claim by William Lane Craig, people in sensory isolation tanks and everyone at the awake-asleep / asleep-awake interfaces are prone to all manner of highly realistic spiritual experiences, experiences that they would swear are totally real. Certain drugs, fevers, sleep deprivation, flashing lights, migraine headaches can all cause highly spiritual but still illusionary / hallucinatory experiences. Being of sound mental health doesn't preclude having illusionary experiences. You can experience an imaginary situation or being, think it is a real experience, and still be clinically sane.

*William Lane Craig says that the purpose of human life - including your life - is not happiness or the pursuit of pleasure, but just to personally come to know God. Why isn't the purpose of life to come to know Zeus, or Brahma or Allah? In any event I thought God said the purpose of human life was to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1: 28). If so, God should have known better than to issue that directive, a directive which has led to all sorts of undesirable consequences.

*According to William Lane Craig, the life, death and especially the resurrection of Jesus is strong evidence for the existence of God.

*Firstly not all scholars of ancient history and archaeology even agree that Jesus even existed. For example, YouTube the following: David Fitzgerald, Richard C. Carrier, and Robert M. Price. Even if Jesus did exist, he more likely as not was just an ordinary mortal with delusions of grandeur. Even if Jesus was born of a virgin and walked on water and healed the sick, etc. that in and of itself says nothing about the existence of God. For example, Buddha, Horus, Krishna and Zoroaster were also all born of a virgin!

*Further, the concept of a resurrection is not by any means restricted to Jesus. Resurrection, for example, was a common theme in Ancient Greek mythology. Hercules got resurrected by his daddy too! And in Ancient Egyptian mythology, Osiris was resurrected by Isis. Further, if you read the Gospels side-by-side instead on consecutively, you'll note that the various accounts of the resurrection of Jesus are inconsistent and contradictory with numerous discrepancies with respect to who (that differs) saw what; between what actually happened (that differs too) and when; and between when (timelines also differ) whatever happened actually happened. The personnel, events and timelines are not consistent.

*William Lane Craig was not personally present at the alleged resurrection of Jesus and so like everyone else has to rely on contradictory eye-witness accounts of the nature of someone who told someone who told someone, etc. from 2000 years ago, events which weren't actually written up until many decades after the fact. The upshot of that is that if one event in the Bible is contradicted by another event in the Bible, then anything and everything in the Bible is open to question and doubt. 

A Few Additional Thoughts

*William Lane Craig cites the post-dead and buried sightings of Jesus as proof of the resurrection of Jesus and therefore as proof of the existence of God. However, there have been many sightings of Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa and other notable "dead" celebrities post their alleged demise so does that mean that Elvis and Jimmy, etc. were also resurrected from the dead and if so does this mean that they too are divine and sons of God?

*Something (i.e. - the Universe) cannot come from nothing. From nothing, nothing comes. The laws of causality only work between things that already exist. Not even God can create or cause to come into being an absolute something from absolutely nothing. Therefore, something has always existed. Therefore there was a before the "origin of the universe", which translated, just means the origin of our Universe. Our Universe is not the be-all-and-end-all of the Cosmos. Anyway, since something has always existed, there is absolutely no need for a creator deity, a deity William Lane Craig calls "God".

*William Lane Craig says that has to be a First Cause, an uncaused cause, which can only come from God. However, he never states how far back that First Cause had to have been. If, IMHO, no matter how far back you think a First Cause must have been caused, you can of course extrapolate back ever further. That's a practical definition of infinity. It's like thinking of the highest number possible - then adding one to that! You can do that an infinite number of times. 

*To avoid temporal issues, Craig asserts without any logic or actual evidence that his uncaused cause was simultaneous with its effect - the origin of our Universe. Alas, because of the limiting cosmic speed limit, the speed of light, there MUST be a temporal lag between a cause (uncaused or otherwise) and its effect.

*It's within this segment that Craig describes his version of God as being uncaused, timeless, spaceless, and immaterial, with unfathomable power (omnipotent) and personal. Taking each trait in turn:

God is Uncaused: To suggest that God is an uncaused being makes no real sense. If the designed (life, the Universe and everything) must have a designer (as theists insist on), then the designer in turn is designed and must in turn have a designer. So who designed God? Further, if God is uncaused then God is a being that has always existed. But then too the Cosmos has always existed (since you can't create something from nothing, something has always existed). If both God and the Cosmos are uncaused and have therefore always existed for all of infinity, then there is absolutely no reason or need to even postulate the existence of God for which there is no evidence. God serves no purpose as a creator for the Cosmos (of which our Universe is but a part) was not created. There's at least evidence for the Cosmos existing and therefore the Cosmos is hardly an existing equivalent to your invisible 'friend' in the sky.

God is Timeless: If you exist in a timeless state, you exist in a state where nothing changes (including you) - since the concept of time is just how we make orderly sense of change - and if there is no change there is no motion since without motion there can be no change. As an analogy therefore, think of God in a timeless state as being just a macro still photograph (we'll ignore the physical photograph's micro quantum state). What can the object represented in a still photograph do? Not a hell of a lot. The object in the photograph is in a state of suspended animation - frozen in time. So if God is frozen in time, which is He exists in a timeless state, then He cannot even think a thought far less taking any action on those thoughts since having thoughts, say having an idea, implies an existence in time. "I think therefore I am" is a famous way of pointing out your very existence in time. "I am" is not an existence in a timeless state. If you think, that is say you have an idea, that implies that before you had that idea you didn't have that idea and that thought. Therefore there must be an interval of time between not having the thought and having the thought, and the phase change between the two is a change, again implying a time interval. Of course my assumed premise here is that God is a thinking being which I think is a pretty reasonable assumption for being one of God's traits. A thinking God seems far more likely than a timeless God.

God is Spaceless: What the heck does this even mean? Even immaterial abstract concepts are properties of things that exist in space, even though space itself is an immaterial concept since space is just that nothingness container that all somethings are defined as being in. A something cannot exist in a spaceless state and presumably God is a something even though Craig says that God is immaterial (see below). Any two things have a spatial relationship inside the concept we call space. Even a Cosmos that contained one and only one thing in it can be considered spatial since that object has substance and thus has a 3-D structure. It occupies a space. Something immaterial however has no structure and no substance and thus occupies no space other than the immaterial only exists thanks to the existence of physical objects. Wetness doesn't occupy any space but still exists in space because water molecules exist in space. Even if God is immaterial, the concept of God still resides inside the minds of spatially physical beings. God exists in space in the same way that wetness, Wednesday, the number three, and beauty 'exist' in space.

God is Immaterial: The question is, can something immaterial (i.e. - God, according to Craig) totally exist outside of the material? IMHO, no, since the immaterial is an emergent property that emerges out of the material. If from nothing, nothing comes (as Craig is fond of saying) then from the immaterial only the immaterial comes. But the immaterial cannot give rise to the material (which in Craig-speak would mean from nothing, something comes). Wetness cannot give rise to the water molecule but collectively water molecules give rise to wetness. Intelligence does not give rise to quarks and electrons but quarks and electrons can give rise to intelligence. What does the number three give rise to or Wednesday or beauty? Nothing at all. So if God is immaterial (like Wednesday, three, or beauty) then something material cannot arise out of or be created by the immaterial concept that is God. That's another way of suggesting that God was created in the image of material mankind and not the other way around. An immaterial God couldn't create squat since only from something, something comes (to rework Craig's nothing-from-nothing observation which if he thought more about that would negate his belief in God altogether).   

God has Unfathomable Power (God is Omnipotent): I would have to agree with this. I mean if there really is a God and if God really did create life, the Universe and everything, then God would indeed have to be able to outrun a speeding bullet; leap tall buildings with a single bound; bend steel in His bare hands, and so on and so on.

God is Personal: Craig suggests that since God created life, the Universe and everything He must have do so of his own free will, or with freedom of the will, all with the desire to personally interact with His creation. However, that does not of necessity follow. Many evolutionary biologists / computer programmers have created Artificial Life programs. They just program in the laws, principles and relationships they want to examine, press enter, and sit back and see what happens. They don't get up-close-and-personal with their Artificial Life creations, and can happily delete them later on down the track. If you create and play a video game, you don't get personal with your creation. It's just a game.

A Few Additional Thoughts

*Though William Lane Craig argues the existence of God due to the creation of the Universe, it is just as plausible that he should be giving equal credibility for the done deed to any creator deity in any of the world's other creation myths of which there are multi-dozens and dozens. Translated, William Lane Craig goes through a rather long and convoluted and IMHO illogical explanation for the origin of the [WLC] or our [JP] Universe. According to William Lane Craig, "God did it", meaning the Christian God of the Bible. However, William Lane Craig could just as easily and just as logically substituted Allah, Brahma, Enki, Odin, Quetzalcoatl or Viracocha (and many others as well) without losing the plot or dropping the ball. But of course William Lane Craig roots for and cheers on Team God, not Team Allah, or Team Odin, etc. 

*It's interesting to note that while William Lane Craig seems happy to acknowledge and accept the late Sir Fred Hoyle's assertion that a random origin-of-life by pure chance would be akin to a tornado ripping through a junkyard and by chance assembling a Boeing 747, William Lane Craig totally ignores Hoyle's version of cosmology - his Steady State Model / Theory which would imply an infinite Universe in both space and in time. That would never do! While the Steady State Theory as proposed by Hoyle is dead and buried, it doesn't take a great deal of cosmological extrapolation to resurrect the idea by going from Hoyle's idea of the uncaused continuous creation of hydrogen atoms popping into existence to ramping that general concept up to the continuous creation of Big Bangs replacing the hydrogen atoms. You can have a Steady State cosmology of ever on-going Big Bangs, and that too would be an infinite - in this case - Cosmos in space and in time.

*Now according to William Lane Craig (oft featured in interviews and debates on YouTube) everything that has a beginning has a cause. The Universe had a beginning. Therefore the Universe had a cause. Therefore that cause was God! That's the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Okay, let's extend that series of premises and conclusions.

Everything that has a beginning has a cause. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, pandemics, epidemics, blight, droughts, floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, shark attacks, locust plagues, algae blooms, hail, sleet, blizzards, landslides, avalanches, even ice ages and asteroid impacts each have a beginning. Therefore each of these events have a cause. Ultimately that cause has to be traced back to God.

P.S. And God loves you!

P.P.S. Thanks be to JT Eberhard for the inspiration behind this revelation.

When you kick-the-bucket in this terrestrial abode and head off into that great eternal afterlife located in an even greater heavenly abode somewhere beyond the Pillars of Hercules (or equivalent), no doubt you expect an everlasting existence interacting with deities and of course your fellow, albeit also deceased, humans. But what about all the other terrestrial life forms (animals and plants). Don’t they too deserve their slice of the afterlife pie? No fear. You’ll find them too out back of beyond, or wherever ‘heaven’ resides. 

According to most religions, after your demise, you enter into the afterlife phase of your ‘life’. And apparently you will be sharing that afterlife with some rather exclusive company, just your fellow human beings*. There will be no other life forms present in Heaven, Hell or Hades, be they companion animals (pets), butterflies or vermin**. But if you stop and think about it, that’s nonsense. If you have an afterlife, all living things have an afterlife. 

Okay boys and girls, run this bit of wisdom past your local clergy.

Let’s be clear from the outset, you are not an organism. You are a colony of organisms. You call these individual colony members or organisms, cells***. Your body’s cells are living things in their own right.

Now chances are, you believe in an afterlife when you die, an afterlife that’s still within the physical realm of matter and energy. A non-physical afterlife would be hell indeed, since you couldn’t see, hear, touch, taste or smell, and all your lifetime memories, your personality, your creativeness, all encoded in your neurochemistry, your neurons, your brain cells, would go poof. Thus: that physical you, that’s now in a physical afterlife, is still a colony of unicellular living things or organisms. If you head to the afterlife, so do all the individual living cells that made you up, including sperm cells, eggs cells, blood cells and those all essential neurons.

The logical upshot of that is that each and every single-celled micro-organism, microbe, bacteria, etc. when it dies, goes to ‘heaven’, or whatever realm(s) you think houses the afterlife. For lack of something more suitable to label this location, let’s just equate afterlife with ‘heaven’.

Thus, every multi-cellular organism, in reality also a colony of single-celled organisms, goes to an afterlife upon their demise. Jellyfish, sponges, clams and oysters, snails and slugs, ants, newts, frogs, mackerel and  minnows, ravens and robins, pussy cats and puppy dogs, whales and dolphins, apes and monkeys, even plants go to a ‘life’ after death. So presumably, when you mow the lawn, all those soon to be dead grass cells will go to ‘heaven’. But at least when you get to ‘heaven’ any lawns there won’t need mowing – you couldn’t kill off anything that was having an eternal afterlife now could you? So, how cows and goats and horses get nourishment in ‘heaven’ would be a mystery.

Of course maybe you don’t need nourishment in the afterlife (so much for beer and pizza nights). That would solve a lot of problems, like the need for lions in their afterlife to kill lambs in their afterlife, but why then drag all of your digestive systems including blood circulation, liver functions, kidney functions, etc. along for the afterlife ride?

But then you can’t discriminate. Digestive cells are just as deserving of an afterlife as your (required) brain cells and neurons and nerve cells and sensory organs like eyes and ears. So in your afterlife you carry a lot of now useless baggage along, like your lungs. You no longer need to breathe in order to provide oxygen to your now immortal cells.

Further, any cell that’s part of a multi-cellular organism that expires before the rest of the colony of cells goes to ‘heaven’ or whatever (or should that be wherever?). Anything defined as alive, when it dies (as all things must even if it’s a bacteria that reproduces asexually generation upon generation), has an afterlife. That’s the logical upshot of believing that you have an afterlife. It makes no sense that your brain cells should accompany you to a ‘life’ eternal, yet a chimpanzee’s brain cells don’t because a chimpanzee doesn’t.

The proof of that pudding is that some animal cells, in the form of organs and tissues, can get transplanted into humans. Some body parts from pigs I believe are compatible for human transplantation, like heart valves. Now when the human who received that animal transplant dies and goes to ‘heaven’, isn’t it logical that the donated animal body bits go along for the afterlife ride?

As another little titbit offered up, consider the fact that 90% of you is not you at all. There’s all those trillions of bacteria and worms and mites and other hangers-on that live in your mouth and nose and guts and blood stream; those that are in your hair and on your skin thriving as parasites or even as symbiotic organisms. Most of these critters will die with you and go with you to ‘heaven’.   

Besides, you wouldn’t want to go to your afterlife without having all of your previously departed companion animals present to greet you at the Pearly Gates, now would you? And of course ditto for all those pets you now have whose demise will follow yours. You’ll want to be reunited with them too.

On the other hand, if pets ‘survive’ into the afterlife, and ditto microbes, then so will black plague bacteria, sharks, scorpions, man-eating tigers, icky spiders, cockroaches, rats, cobras, and any and every other nasty you can conjure up. Your own afterlife might not be so heavenly after all!

Now I keep talking about ‘heaven’ and not ‘hell’. Why? Because it would be difficult to argue that any biological cell can be or is sinful or evil. Therefore, all cells go to ‘heaven’ and by implication you must go to ‘heaven’ since none of your body cells deserve to go to ‘hell’!

On the other hand, maybe there’s no such thing as an afterlife, a ‘heaven’ or a ‘hell’ to spend eternity in, for anything from humble bacteria to the decidedly un-humble human.

The absurdity of it all! Not that the concepts that microbes have an afterlife, rather the concept that there even is an afterlife.

*That’s good to be with your friends and loved ones forever. That’s bad if it’s your ex, your mother-in-law, and your old supervisors that would just as soon fire you as look at you.

**That’s good – no pesky flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches and rats. That’s bad – no pretty flowers, no good fishing (catch and release only of course) and no songbirds.

***Thus, when you die (i.e. – declared medically dead), you don’t really die in absolute totality in the interval from one heartbeat/breath to the lack of what would have been your next heartbeat/breath; you aren’t completely dead, since not all of those cells that make up you die at the exact same time that medical science says you have kicked-the-bucket. Of course all those not quite yet dead cells will shortly follow suit, but all up, unless you were at ground zero at Hiroshima or Nagasaki (or equivalent), the snuffing of all of your cells is a drawn out process, not something that’s instantaneous.

Apologetics and Theology / God: The Intelligent Designer?
« on: October 16, 2016, 05:24:39 am »
One alleged proof of an Almighty deity is that life, the Universe and everything (LUE) is apparently designed in an intelligent, not in a random way. Part of that life is of course human beings, like you. Are you intelligently designed? If you answer “Yes”, I’ll say “No”!

Human beings are apparently the apex of all of that which God created. As such, all of that which God created should benefit or be beneficial to us. Life, the Universe and everything (LUE) has been designed by God with us in mind since LUE was created before us, in preparation for us. It (LUE) therefore must be an intelligently designed, since God is, presumably, intelligent (though creating the human species sort of makes you wonder). That intelligent design includes the design of God’s apex creation itself – the human being. Now, the question is, does the rhetoric meet the reality? Let’s look at the alleged intelligent design or construction of the human being.

Do you need a hearing aid? Do you need glasses? Did you require your tonsils or appendix or wisdom teeth to be removed? Do you suffer from haemorrhoids or back problems?  Have your hips, knees, and ankles let you down? Can your bones break? Do you suffer from baldness, tooth decay, arthritis, acne, colds, the flu, even cancer? Do you have issues with your sexuality or the functioning of your private parts? Do you suffer from mental illness? Who created the human species and therefore by definition created you? Who created your physiology and anatomy? So who created all of your psychological, physiological and anatomical problems? Is this what you would consider intelligent design?

As an example of so-called ‘intelligent design’ consider our nakedness relative to our furry primate and hominid ancestors and current primate ‘relatives’. There are multi-dozens upon dozens of primates; only one ‘naked ape’ (humans). Why did God create us without fur? I mean when the temperature drops much below the comfort threshold, we require in no uncertain terms clothing. When it hits freezing point, we can’t survive without clothing, yet our furry animal cousins seem to manage A-OK. There’s many an image of a furry mammal surviving, even thriving in the snow. Quite apart from the fact that fur is a better regulator of temperature than just sweating (our primary temperature regulation mechanism), loss of fur resulted in two other highly negative evolutionary rock and hard place restrictions.

We’ve been given (by God) a temperature regulation mechanism via sweating. Humans of all the mammals are the species that sweat the most. The retrograde step of temperature control via sweating instead of fur imposed two additional restrictions on us. 1) We were forced to stay close to reliable sources of fresh water. 2) It also makes us way more dependent on supplies of salt since salt is excreted from the body via sweat. Salt supplies in the natural environment are rare – so rare that once upon a time salt was extremely valuable and you got paid in salt. It’s where we get our word, salary from. If only the Almighty had given us our fur.

Another questionable part of God's intelligent design has to do with our bipedal gait relative to the rest of the mammals. Can you name me one other mammal that routinely walks on two legs?  No? That’s probably because there are many negatives to a bipedal gait, like loss of stability. Humans are more prone to losing their balance and falling over than say a cow or a cat. If you’re alone and quadrupedal (or an insect or even better a spider) and lose the use of a leg, you’re hurting but not critically. If you’re alone and bipedal and lose the use of a leg, you’re up fertiliser creek. God should have given us six limbs – four legs and two arms! Now that would have been intelligent design.   

Further, as a benefit to God’s apex human species, it would have been really intelligent to cap off the ageing process at say the 30 year mark. No wrinkles, no balding, no grey hairs, no liver spots, no need for a walking stick/cane, etc. Now we still have to eventually kick-the-bucket, but why have to suffer through the afflictions of old age? Be a 70-year-old in a 30-year-old body then have a sudden death heart attack that ends things on a still relatively youthful high note (as it were). I mean God created the animals that way – when’s the last time you saw an elderly grey-haired, wrinkled cat? How about a bald-headed dog? Animals don’t tend to show the ageing process as obviously as us humans.

A Few Additional Thoughts

*Given that Planet Earth is roughly 70% ocean, wouldn't a God who intelligently designed us have given us the ability to live / breathe underwater?

*Here are a couple more examples of very unintelligent 'intelligent design'. 1) Breathing and eating through the same orifice and piping (i.e. - the trachea and the throat) interface just about ensures that at some point you will choke - maybe to death (it’s been known to happen). 2) The stomach is highly resistant to acid but the adjoining esophagus isn't leading to all sorts of heartburn related issues. The esophagus - if 'intelligently designed' - should be acid resistant as well since you swallow a lot of acids - citric acid, aspirin, carbonic acid, acetic acid (i.e. - vinegar). 

*If God didn't want men to have foreskins (therefore the requirement for circumcision), then males shouldn't have been born with foreskins. Further, if God is such an intelligent designer, why do we have wisdom teeth, an appendix, tonsils, and a birth canal that really should be slightly wider than it is?

*Regarding the human body, one obvious design flaw, if design there be, is that our red blood cells have a far greater affinity for carbon monoxide than for oxygen, leading to many deaths/year by carbon monoxide poisoning especially seeing as how carbon monoxide is a colourless / odourless gas. If God designed the human body, that was a major mistake.

*Why design humans with so many blood types? It complicates medical transfusions (surely an all-knowing God foresaw this) and this poorly designed feature of human physiology also complicates the mother-fetus relationship.

*The juxtaposition of the human waste elimination system with the human reproductive system is just plain bad engineering.

*If God had been really intelligent in His intelligent design, He wouldn't have given teenage males as much testosterone as He did.

*God also should have designed us in such a way as to make it impossible for any evolutionary biologist to have concluded that humans evolved naturally and ascended from 'lower' primates. God could have created us with 100% unique DNA with nothing in common with any other living (or extinct) organism. As noted above, humans would have been way better designed to have four legs (better balance) and two arms. A real deity could have accomplished that.

*Given the opportunity, do you think you could have done a better job of creating life, the Universe and everything that God, an ultimate creation of really intelligent design? Be honest. Couldn't you really have done a better job like ensuring there wasn't cancer or birth defects or ensuring that there was food for all?

*In conclusion, isn't it absolutely amazing how perfectly and intelligently designed a hole must be, such that its design enables the hole to be the very exact same shape as the puddle now contained within!

Apologetics and Theology / Regarding the God of Economic Necessity
« on: October 15, 2016, 04:25:05 am »
If the entire world immediately stopped believing in God there would be major economic consequences following on from that.

Probably the most central reason for the collective belief in God is a purely economic one. The entire concept of God has been and is today a multi-billion dollar enterprise.

Consider the value in buildings and in the land holdings held by religious institutions. What's the value of the Vatican? What worth can be ascribed to all of the major cathedrals scattered around the world? Add to the value of those real estate collections the value of thousands of religious artworks of all kinds - paintings, sculptures, stained-glass windows, etc. It's all a major and ever ongoing industry. The value of religious-themed an associated artefacts - gold, silver and jewels would have to amount to many millions of dollars too. 

Religious publishing is a major division of the worldwide publishing industry considering all of the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of pro-Christian books, pamphlets and articles collectively published in the past, today, and no doubt continuing well into the foreseeable future. There are also many Christian publishing houses publishing nothing but godly works and words.

Then there's all of the other mass media outlets for expressing purely religious messages. Many are owned and operated by religious institutions like those Christian Internet sites as well as radio and TV stations broadcasting God's message 24/7/52. The production of videos and independent films are a major part of this propaganda machine. Not to be left out of the picture, Hollywood (and similar other studios) has often jumped on the religious-themed bandwagon.

And how many millions of people worldwide are in the employment of religious institutions including all of the teachers employed by all of those religious-oriented schools and universities? Yes, millions of people depend on the belief in the existence of God for their paychecks.

Finally there are all of the armaments required by warring religious factions that's got to be bought and paid for. Over the past several thousand years how many billions of dollars worth of weapons have been manufactured so that one infidel could kill another infidel? Lots of people get to be employed for that reason along.

So if one eliminates God (and company) from the world scene, you'd put a rather large dent in the economic engine that drives the world. So vested interests rule, and so rule that God stays relevant - for purely economic reasons.

Apologetics and Theology / Is The Bible Compatible With Science?
« on: October 15, 2016, 04:22:59 am »
There are those who claim that science is compatible with God, Christianity and the Bible. Some go further and claim that religion and theology and theism in general are in general compatible with scientific truths. Such claims are highly questionable.

Is the Bible compatible with science? Is science compatible with Biblical events? There are some who say "yes". For some reason or other there are some who will jump through all manner of hoops to reconcile the Bible (and their faith) with science (and their reality) - after all, any True Believer, even an evangelistic, fundamentalist, Young Earth creationist puts their trust in science when they board an aircraft.

So, such individuals might reason that, for example, they might say that one 'day' to God is akin to a billion years in human reckoning. Or, evolution was the actual mechanism God used to create the diversity we see in the multitudes of life forms on Earth albeit highly speeded up in order to have the creation take place within the last six thousand years or so. Fossils are really real (i.e. - petrified / mineralized bone) but were still created and planted in the rocks by God to test our faith. And if you are a Young Earth creationist needing to explain the dinosaurs, well they co-existed with humans and were present and accounted for on Noah's Ark!   

But these attempts to reconcile the Bible with science are made by people who are rather lacking in basic scientific knowledge. Nearly all professional scientists would take issue with the following Biblical tall tales.

What would a mathematician make of the data given in 1 Kings 7: 23? She'd calculate Pi as being equal to exactly three - no more and no less. Clearly the writers of 1 Kings failed Mathematics 101 (and God did a very poor job of proof-reading His own holy book).

Any astronomer worthy of the name would just have to barf at the notion that Planet Earth was created before the stars, or that stars could fall to Earth, or especially that the Sun and Moon actually stood still in the heavens.

And a physicist would have to throw up their hands in horror at the notion that any person could actually walk on water or that there could be a burning bush that wasn't consumed or that you can create something from nothing (i.e. - that multiplication of those loaves / fishes).

Chemists will dispute that water could be turned into wine or that the human body can be turned into a pillar of salt.

Any meteorologist worth their salt would tell you that it couldn't rain for 40 days and nights over the entirety of Planet Earth nor could just pure wind actually part the Red (or Reed) Sea.

A geologist would baulk at the idea that there actually was a global flood since there's no evidence of any such an event.

Here's one for the geographer. According to 1 Samuel 2: 8, the Earth is standing on pillars (not 'floating' in space), pillars created by God. I'm surprised that these pillars aren't standing in turn on the backs of turtles; and that from there on down it's literally turtles all the way down.

Any biochemist would dispute that a human male (Adam) could be created from just dust (and there is no such thing as the breath-of-life, something quite different in meaning as related in the Bible from what we'd call standard mouth-to-mouth resuscitation).

Any geneticist would take issue that a human female (Eve) could be created from a male rib. Eve's genetic inheritance, solely via Adam's rib, would have ensured she was a male. Jesus in turn would of have to have been a female getting 'his' sole genetics from his 'virgin' mother.

Zoologists would have a field day debating with True Believers the actual existence of a talking snake and a talking donkey as well as the existence of unicorns.

And what would a botanist make of talking trees and fig trees and bushes and brambles and vines (Judges 9: 8-15)!

Biologists are ROTFLTAO over any notion that a human (Jonah) could survive inside a 'whale' for three days or that spears / shafts turned into serpents / snakes.

Any medical doctor can tell you that you can technically perform a resurrection on someone technically dead for some rather short period after their technical death but the resurrection of Jesus falls way, way outside of those parameters, not to mention the lack of advanced medical technology that was available 2000 years ago.

Medical doctors will also take issue with the 'fact' that Biblical characters could live for over 900 years and that there was a virgin birth and that Sarah got in a family way at the age of 90 and that disease is caused by demonic or otherwise evil spirits.

Lastly, most historians / archaeologists would take issue with the historical / archaeological accuracy of nearly all of the major Biblical events related in the Old and New Testaments, like the Battle of Jericho or The Flood or the Exodus or the alleged events at Sodom and Gomorrah since no one can actually find Sodom and Gomorrah.

Now the question arises, is religion subject to scientific inquiry?

I'm going to go along with Richard Dawkins on the issue of the non-separation of religion and science. Religion makes scientific claims and therefore is subject to the scientific method. Creation is a scientific process even if it's creation by a deity. Since a creation cannot happen for no reason at all, it is perfectly acceptable for science to investigate that reason.

The Bible (as noted above) is full of scientific claims from the virgin birth, to the resurrection, to the story of Jonah, to the ability of Noah's Ark to do what it's been said it did, to the evidence for a global flood, to claims that the Sun and the Moon stood still in the sky, to how Sarah could have become in a family way at aged 90, how people had lifespans exceeding 900 years, and on and on it goes.

Archaeology is a science and there is a discipline called Biblical Archaeology. Miracles are subject to scientific investigation and validation. If heaven and hell are actual places then they are part and parcel of geography. The success or failure of prayer can be subjected to statistical analysis. If you claim to have a personal and mental experience of God (or of Jesus or of angels or of demons), well that falls within the realm of neurology. Near death experiences (NDE's) as evidence for an afterlife can be tested scientifically. Do Hindu's experience a different sort of NDE compared to Christians? If not what does that tell us?

Spiritual matters are ultimately thought of as human matters and the human can be treated and scientifically examined as just another type of lab rat! Actually there is evidence that some of the higher animals seemingly experience spiritual experiences and that too can be studied.

One final thought. No scientific explanation has ever been overturned or replaced by a religious explanation but lots of once-upon-a-time religious explanations have been superseded by scientific explanations.

Moral Argument / Thoughts On Morals / Ethics
« on: October 13, 2016, 05:04:40 am »
Morals / ethics do not stem from religious texts but religious true believers adopt the naturalness of human morality and assign that trait to the teachings of their particular religious texts. It's putting the cart before the horse. Even some of the higher animals can show moral / ethical behaviour and they aren't into the teachings of various religious texts. In any event, the Old Testament and the Koran are hardly textbook examples in morality and ethics. There are obviously good people (many religious) who do good things and bad people (some religious) who do bad things but as been oft said, it takes religion to get good people to do bad things - dare one mention Northern Ireland as an obvious recent (one of many) example. As far as the morals / ethics of atheists are concerned, atheists have never burned anyone at the stake. Atheists have never stoned anyone to death. Atheists have never flown planes into buildings or been suicide bombers. Atheists didn't participate in the Crusades. On the other hand, true believers well and truly like to spill blood as one can ascertain from reading or watching the daily news. All up, atheists are way more tolerant of true believers than true believers have been and are tolerant of atheists or of other but differently inclined true believers.

Eternity / Regarding the Afterlife
« on: October 13, 2016, 04:52:41 am »
One reason for inventing a supernatural deity is that death is something natural, yet something that we would like to avoid. Since that's not possible, the next best option is an afterlife - an 'eternal' afterlife. However, since we cannot undergo that phase change all on our own, we need a supernatural agent to help us make that phase transition. So it should come as no surprise that the afterlife is one of the major tenants of many religions, yet the concept has to be flawed.

Firstly, since your body / brain goes nowhere post your demise, you'd need to demonstrate actual mind / body duality - an immaterial something that's part of you (i.e. - soul, essence, spirit, personality, whatever) that still exists (if it can be said that something immaterial or non-physical actually has existence) post your kickin' the bucket. Considering that you weren't conceived with anything non-physical, you'd need to explain where in fact your non-physicality bits came from. Further, all immaterial or non-physical concepts only can come into actual 'existence' when consciously thought about or subconsciously stored in memory. Both thought and memory are purely physical processes.

The main problem I have is that the immaterial part of you - your soul, etc. - has no sensory apparatus (eyes, ears, nerves, taste buds, etc.) and no brain to process any sensory data. Therefore, in the afterlife you would be deaf, blind, etc. How does your soul actually experience the external reality that you inhabit in your afterlife?

But there are two other problems. The first is that 'eternal' bit. An eternal afterlife sounds nice until you realize you'd outlast the Heat Death of the Universe, trillions of years hence. If you get bored on a weekend afternoon, imagine trillions upon trillions of them. The question is, how can you fill in that time without going stir-crazy with boredom hundreds of times worse than anything you've ever experienced before?

The second problem is more significant. Since that you that is you changes from day-to-day, which version of you is that you that gets the afterlife? Changes in you are not just physical in that old cells die, new cells form; atoms come, atoms go; you put on weight, you lose weight; you change hairstyles or grow a beard; you age (gracefully or otherwise); your health and fitness changes as well, usually going steadily downhill. Changes are also apparent in your very essence which alters over time too in terms of memories and knowledge acquired and forgotten; likes and dislikes ditto. So that you at your death could be just a pale reflection of that you in your prime. But your prime isn't the maximal prime when it comes to all of the facets that make you, the you reading this right now, you. Your health or fitness could be better or worse tomorrow. Your interests different tomorrow. Your new experiences now added on to what came before; or maybe forgotten. However, you could argue that God could resurrect you in such a fashion as to combine all of the various maximal primes you had at various ages into a new and improved version of you. But what about the baby / infant who hasn't achieved any real prime bits yet. All their prime bits are theoretical and just potential future ones. But when the baby dies they had no knowledge, no real experiences, no memories, and no real fitness (physical or mental). What kind of eternal afterlife could that infant have, or does an all-knowing God just resurrect the baby knowing what kind of maximal primes it would have had? Does that really even make any sense? That sort of negates any free will that baby would have had!

The moral of this little segment is to make the fullest use of this go-round that you can for once it's done, it's done. That's it. As Yogi Berra once observed, "it ain't over till it's over", but once it's over, it's over! So "do not go gently into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light." 

You don't believe in Zeus and thousands of other once up-front-and-centre deities. I don't believe in God and thousands of other once up-front-and-centre deities (including Zeus). The actual evidence (or lack thereof) for either and the principle involved are actually exactly the same.

Had you been born 10,000 years ago you'd be singing the praises as a convinced True Believer in one or more of those thousands of other once up-front-and-centre deities. You'd of never heard of Yahweh or Jesus or Allah or Mohammad.

As noted above, throughout recorded history, even up through and including the present, there have been thousands of other once mutually exclusive up-front-and-centre religious deities, as well as currently being but still mutually exclusive up-front-and-centre religious deities. The question obviously arises, why is your one religion and your one deity (assuming you are a monotheist) the be-all-and-end-all of absolute truth? You got competition my friend!

There is no proof or even evidence for any monotheistic deity's existence. If there was then no debate on the question would need to be entered into since we'd all be unified as True Believers in that one be-all-and-end-all of absolute theological truth.

One cannot argue the existence of God (specifically) from morality since God (of the Old Testament) is the most immoral being ever conceived of in any existing literature. "God" and the word "love" or "mercy" or "compassion" just cannot be used in the same sentence.

There's no need to postulate the existence of God in order to explain the existence of life, the Universe and everything since the existence of life, the Universe and everything can be easily accounted for without resorting to any involvement by a supernatural deity.

There's no independent historical or archaeological evidence that any of the major events ever happened, like the Flood or the Exodus or the Battle of Jericho. Further, there's no independent historical or archaeological evidence that any of the major Biblical characters ever existed, like Abraham or Noah or Moses or Joshua or Jonah. To top things all off, the Bible is absolutely full of inconsistencies, contradictions and other logical nonsense.

Prayers and miracles have been debunked. An obvious example is that God can apparently cure all manner of cancers but seems utterly unable to regrow the limbs of amputees. Are the latter less worthy of God's miraculous abilities. Surely both groups of people pray. More to the point, if God is all-powerful, wouldn't it have been better to have ensured that said cancers never got a start in the first place. Prevention is always a better option than cure.

Any personal spiritual experience of your personal God is just that - personal, and therefore subjective and therefore lacks persuasive evidence to convince anyone else. People personally experience and report all manner of strange things. Perhaps brain chemistry and mental states tend to be a more reasonable explanation for 'spiritual' experiences and visions. 

When it comes to theologies, religions and deities, the majority doesn't rule. For example, the actual existence of God isn't up to a democratic vote no matter how many True Believers exist. Even if a billion people believe a foolish thing it's still a foolish thing.

The proof of the Christianity pudding would be in the End Times eating. Jesus said that the End Times would happen within the lifetime of those hearing his words. His intervention (i.e. – Second Coming) should have happened within the lifetime of individuals that Jesus himself addressed. Oops! Be that as it may, well-meaning educated theologians and others (often not quite so well educated) have been saying "Jesus will intervene in the near future" for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years now. If I had a $5 bill for each and every time someone said "Jesus will return in the near future" I'd make Bill Gates look poor! The "near future" never, Never, NEVER seems to arrive. Though I of course won't be around to see it and collect, I'd bet the family farm that our human descendants 500, even 5000 years from now will be saying "Jesus will return in the near future". Don't hold your breath. The Bible was written by humans for humans; ditto every other religious text - unless one can of course produce a certain set of stone tablets but for some mysterious reason, they've gone missing!

The origins of religion have been adequately explained without the need to reference God (or any other deity / deities). Religions collectively have their roots in the purely human need to explain the unexplainable (agency); the desire for an afterlife which you are unable to provide for on your own behalf; and the uniquely human habit of being a habitual storyteller. In fact nearly every time you dream you are making up a fictional story!   

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