Posts Tagged ‘HuffPo Fail’

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I see dead people…er…angels.

July 12, 2012

Figures that when I find something interesting to blog about, it would be some more religious Huffington Post Fail. In this case it is an article from Lorna Byrne, an Irish mystic who sees guardian angels everywhere, and it is about responding to cynics.

Sounds like it was meant for me!

I understand that for some people it’s hard to believe that there could be such a thing as an angel, or even that I can see angels. I can’t prove the existence of angels, or that I see them. I wish I could. All I can do is tell you what I see and am told and then leave it up to you.

Well, basically for everyone who values credible evidence, yes. It is hard to believe. Of course, this sort of skepticism is characterized poorly, and when I visited her website I was implored to ‘put your disbelief to one side’. This is something I do for a work of fiction, to watch a ridiculous movie or play a fantastical game. This is not an ideal method for building the basic structure of one’s life.

It seems to me to be a terrible waste to have all this help on offer and not to use it. Why not suspend your cynicism.

What have you got you lose?

Good ol’ Pascal and his Wager again. Her conclusion in the HuffPo article is along the same lines. Remember, she’s asking us to simply accept what she sees and is told. Again, Byrne’s website is useful in finding out what she would have us do.

Be alert for any signs that the Angels might give you. A sign from the Angels, no matter how trivial it may seem at the time, can be a symbol of hope, lifting your heart and reminding you that you are not alone, no matter what may be happening in your life.

She then relates a story of a woman she taught, who then felt sure that a song that had gotten stuck in her head was actually an angelic revelation. The prescription here is exactly what I’ve seen before – ascribing special meaning to anything or everything as needed. I can still recall what happened to me after my trip to the hospital, the coma-dreams I endured, and the special meaning that I was encouraged to assign to them, by nearly everyone in my life.

After that, Byrne runs afoul of the problem of evil, as everyone who believes in such powerful and benevolent supernatural powers must confront. We’re such terrible bloody cynics, aren’t we, to bring up the little hiccup of why is the world so awful if it’s supposed to be so good?

The first question most cynics ask me is, “Where was the guardian angel when…” and will reel off some terrible atrocity.

The truth is that the guardian angels were there trying to avert the disaster or tragedy. God has given us all free will and no guardian angel can overstep this. Whenever any of us are doing wrong, our guardian angel is trying everything possible to stop us, but they cannot overstep the boundaries of free will. The hard truth is that evil exists — we can see the evidence of it all around us — and many people seem to find it easier to give into evil rather than to listen to their guardian angel and do the right thing.

This is her counter from HuffPo, and as seems appropriate for that venue, it’s an over-simplification. There are plenty of disasters and tragedies that have next to nothing to do with ‘free will.’ Take the Indian Ocean tsunami from 2004 (the day after Xmas, ouch!) that killed about a quarter of a million people. What’s to blame, mankind’s free will in choosing to live on the coast? Somebody trip and fall and cause the earthquake? Whatever guardian angels did to mitigate this disaster, sure didn’t add up to much.

So while Byrne believes in guardian angels that protect people in ‘miraculous’ saves – any improbable good is credited to angels – she tries to pawn off blame for the bad on us. On her own website, she has a little extra to offer about “accidents” like what’s pictured above.

So yes, people do die in accidents, but the Angels are there for them also, helping them to be peaceful and calm as they take them on their journey to the other world.

And to believe that, you have to believe that everyone dies peaceful and calm, thanks to the ephemeral reassurances of angels. I suspect that if anyone were around to document reality, it would not correspond to this pablum. But that’s the best that a believer can offer in cases like these. Life sucks and then you die, but it’ll be peaceful and oh, then there’s an ‘other world,’ too.

I wonder if she also buys into the typical xian afterlife of all wrongs being righted and such. Probably.

You are the most important person in the world to your guardian angel and it will do all it can to help you. But you need to play your part and listen to it, whatever way it communicates with you best; by signs, inspiration, gut feelings (including guilt) or comments from other people.

Anyway, this may be a new spin on the message but it’s an old message. The one with special knowledge, with powers only they can possess, nothing they can share with you. But they can tell you what to do. They’d like very much to do that. It’s wrapped in attractive notions about being special and everything being meaningful and all good in the end. Her beliefs suggest living one’s life to the full. But how does that work exactly, when the message is also one of accepting one’s lot, however ordinary, and finding special purpose in it somehow?

Easier to live it up when you’re the one who can see angels, I guess.

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I don’t want to go on the cart!

June 21, 2012

Skeptics continue to predict the final downfall of organized religion, and well…I’m skeptical of that. Of course, some atheist prophet claims it’ll be by 2038 and I figure, I’ll be dead by then anyway. Kind of an easy prediction.

That being said, it is amusing to see the typical “I feel fine!” responses from annoyed believers. Since the original claim was from Huffington Post, it seems only natural that the response was there as well. Their religion section abounds with such foolishness.

Relying on what he calls the “existential security hypothesis,” Barber claims that people turn to religion to calm the fears and insecurities caused by economic deprivation. But once their basic needs are assured and they are protected from early death by violence or disease, they become more secure in their daily lives and their need for religion fades.

That’s the sort of thing I see, although I wouldn’t make a case from a few anecdotes. I wonder if ideas like reincarnation require a decent standard of living to come up with. The truly miserable pine for heavens; but people who like life may want to go on living, or perhaps come back again and live some more. And certainly the ranks of non-believers in America are growing. But I wouldn’t put much stock in seeing religion go away anytime soon.

Although it would be nice.

I felt sorry for Mr. Barber, just as I feel sorry for the other champions of atheism who are so intent on demonstrating religion’s imminent demise. I have the good fortune every week of sitting at the family table, absorbing the light of the Sabbath candles, feeling my spirits soar and experiencing the pure serenity of sacred time. Without Shabbat, and without the other rituals created by humankind’s great religious traditions, how do these atheism-obsessed individuals measure holiness? How do they distinguish the holy in life from the ordinary and the profane?

Although the rabbi’s argument presupposes a valid existence of that which is holy or sacred and can be shot down right there, it is interesting to consider the description of his experiences. Although it’s cloaked in sacred-osity, what he’s describing looks like being happy. His ‘spirits soar’. He finds ‘pure serenity’. Does he really think that being calm, peaceful and happy is somehow different in a believer just because they stick a special label on it and call it ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’?

I suppose so, given the question he asks. How does one measure holiness? What’s its unit of measure? Outside of fantasy games, I haven’t found one. My monk character in Diablo gains Spirit – her spirits soar! – from beating the crap out of enemies. Go figure.

Now here the rabbi gets to his point, that atheism lacks humility, imagination and curiosity.

I am a liberal, in both politics and religion. The heart of liberalism is recognizing the pluralistic nature of the human condition and devising a political system that enables us to live democratically with religious and political differences. In its embrace of diversity, pluralism, and religious tolerance, liberalism inevitably promotes humility about the world around us. Seeing how different we are from each other, liberalism encourages us to consider the possibility that there are things we do not know; that we might be wrong about matters such as God and the language of faith; and that even if the language of faith is not our language, it may be the language of others.

And yet religion empowers the believer to feel that they have acquired some special knowledge, that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Not all religion, or every adherent of it; hopefully not the rabbi himself. But he’s speaking to a nation primarily composed of xians, who to one degree or another feel that they have the market cornered on truth, and that millions or billions of people are so wrong that they will suffer eternally for it.

How do liberal believers handle this? Well, a lot of them drop that kind of language from their belief systems. But as per the rabbi, they’re supposed to be humble, and admit that they could be wrong. That someone else’s faith is just ‘their language’ and as valid as anyone else’s.

In my experience, and knowing the conservative types we’re fighting against, I’ve seen religion put to use in destroying humility, imagination and curiosity. As an atheist myself, I don’t worry about holy vs. profane. I don’t have to put special labels on what makes me happy in order to be happy. Being a skeptic meant abandoning the warm glow of certainty enjoyed by the faithful. Which is humble, and which is arrogant? My interest in science and seeking truth isn’t limited by religious notions of forbidden knowledge and articles of faith trumping demonstrable reality.

And we can see that, in religious nutbags writing climate change denial into their state laws. In school boards writing creationism into their science textbooks, and encouraging a war of ideas among children – kids who we’re supposed to be teaching, instead are obliged to decide for themselves – after years of religion-biased indoctrination, of course.

When it comes to humility, imagination and curiosity, I think I’ve got most believers beat. And it’s funny to me, to see how the rabbi sets up his own arrogance of the sacred and holy, and can’t even see it as he shakes his finger at the skeptic. Standing on a pedestal he set up, he declares himself humble. Walking a traditional religious path defined centuries or millenia ago, he declares himself imaginative. Naysaying and insulting the skeptic, he calls himself curious.

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The oblivious tribalist

May 3, 2011

As usual lately, I can hardly go wrong looking for examples of blinkered religious thought on Huffington Post. The latest one I found is an attack on Christopher Hitchens. He released a letter recently, in lieu of an appearance at the American Atheist convention, where he was scheduled to appear but had to cancel on account of he’s dying of cancer.

Hitchens’ letter is nice enough. I still dislike the man for his neo-con views, but on the subject of atheism he is on point. Certainly his commitment to skepticism in the face of death must sting the religious vultures, who are always on the lookout for a prominent non-believer they can try to convert under duress. I’d like to think that my ornery skepticism will endure if I go through that sort of extended demise.

And I don’t think Hitchens would care about the petty attack of some rabbi on HuffPo, or suggest the guy should lay off on account of the cancer. He can take it, and he gives as good as he gets. My point of objection isn’t there. It’s on the argument of the rabbi itself, such as it is.

Ill with cancer, outspoken “unbeliever” Christopher Hitchens was unable to appear at the American Atheist Convention, and instead sent a letter attacking the “lethal delusion” of religion. This letter was both unspeakably sad and distressingly naive.

Now, having read through his article a couple of times, I never did find where he explained the ‘unspeakably sad’ part. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to title his article ‘The Sad, Naive Atheism of Christopher Hitchens’. I am left with the conclusion that he did so only as an insult. Fallacious rhetoric of course, and I could say I expect better of a preacher, but I would be lying.

Wherefore the naivete, then?

Facing the specter of death himself, he assures us that he has not sacrificed his principles by embracing the “false consolations of religion.” Rather, he draws strength in his illness from humankind’s “innate solidarity,” which — rather than religion — is the source of both our morality and our sense of decency.

But this idea of “innate solidarity” is deeply problematic. Everywhere we look we see the exact opposite of “innate solidarity.” Tribalism — blind, unquestioning allegiance to one’s group — haunts the world; it has nothing to do with solidarity, morality or decency.

Being a preacher, of course, he is obliged to put the quotes around the false consolations of religion, although he has nothing with which to demonstrate that they are true. And although he attacks this idea of ‘innate solidarity,’ commenters on the article have already pointed out the qualities of empathy that have been investigated by science, and identified in other species than just humans, for that matter.

But it is rather amusing to me that the rabbi points out tribalism and attacks it, even as he represents it himself. What is the primary issue skeptics have with religion, if not its focus on blind, unquestioning obedience? Where does his own religion come from, if not tribalism? Do the Twelve Tribes of Israel ring a bell? It is painfully obvious that where this notion of ‘innate solidarity’ is defeated by tribalism, it is religion that has been organized to do so.

No, the rabbi is too busy trying to score points on Hitchens to realize his own-goal in the midst of it.

As a religious person, I believe that human beings have a tendency toward solidarity — and indeed, that it is divinely implanted.

So, while attacking Hitchens’ belief in ‘innate solidarity’ as sad, naive, or otherwise un-evidenced (even though it is), the rabbi’s counter-argument is…religious belief. Based on his religious faith, in the end based on nothing. And it’s the skeptic who is supposed to be naive? Don’t make me laugh.

Oh, all right, go ahead. Do.

The rabbi may sense the flaw in his argument, though; he tries to gloss over the tribalist history of his and other organized religions, as if we could mistake his for anything else. As if his organized religion naturally evolved (ha!) into its present-day form and was destined to improve. Naturally, he does so through the old standard, baseless claims.

Solidarity is not the starting point; it is the result of systems of belief and behavior that have been developed and practiced by communities of common concern — and without question, it is religious systems of belief and religious communities that are the most effective vehicles for developing solidarity and offering compassion over time.

Oh, I’ll go ahead and question. After all, it’s not as if children are unregenerate monsters up to the point when they are exposed to church. It’s not as if I didn’t learn any ethical behavior from, say, my parents. We start learning these things before the mere idea of a god even enters into the argument. Psychologists have tracked the development of empathy, researchers have scanned the brain to find where it originates. Religious systems of belief are simply prevalent, they are the majority — this says nothing to their effectiveness. They may be adequate (most of the time).I wonder, how the current state of the world can be said to be an expression of religion’s effectiveness in promoting this sense of solidarity. Never mind the jihad over there, folks, just a quirk in the data…

And in closing with a fallacious appeal to the masses, the rabbi unwittingly points out what organized religion is really good at: making people dependent on it. Out of a need for consolation in the face of illness, or grief, or injustice, religion offers its fix, and people accept it.

I suggest he remember that for the bulk of humankind, consolation in the face of illness and grief comes from a solidarity that specifically emerges from religious communities, creeds, rituals and liturgies. And thank God for that.

I make no suggestions about the rabbi remembering the growing ranks of non-believers. I don’t particularly care whether he chooses to acknowledge which side of this argument is growing, and which is shrinking. It will become evident to even the most self-blinded, unquestioning and ignorant preachers, soon enough.

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‘Some say’ atheists are morose, amoral sociopaths

March 24, 2011

It has the look of an easy target, this latest rabbi-rant from Huffington Post. Where do they get these people? It begins, typically, with a list of points on which the fellow agrees with Sam Harris, a skeptic who claims that science can answer some moral questions.

Feh. Enough with the oleaginous prattle. At this point, the rabbi goes off the deep end.

The average atheist makes certain basic assumptions about reality: that we all exist as a result of blind and purposeless happenstance, that free will is illusory, that there is no conscious “self” and that there is no objective right or wrong.

So right off the bat the rabbi fails to comprehend ‘the average atheist.’ Well, that’s charitable. Honestly, it is a straw man that he then bashes for the remainder of the article. Since he goes after this perceived ‘average’ he doesn’t have to come up with any specific example. He does offer a quote, but it fails to match up with his supposed ‘average.’

As Dr. Will Provine has said, “[as an atheist] you give up hope that there is an imminent morality … you can’t hope for there being any free will [and there is] … no ultimate foundation for ethics.”

These are not assumptions, of course, but simply what is evident. ‘Giving up hope’ is not even the same thing as an assumption. Lacking a belief is not a belief in the opposite: lack of belief in gods does not imply a solid belief in no-god. Old ground for me, I suppose, been over this misconception…or, perhaps, deception…before. I have trouble with the sincerity of the rabbi, so I’ll go with that. Deception.

So with those false presuppositions under his belt, the rabbi feels free to question why the skeptic judges much of anyone or anything at all.

The case he tries to make is that morality is somehow scientifically built into reality and when done correctly results in what he calls “human thriving.” But surely the objective listener must recognize that the notion of “thriving” itself is utterly subjective. The Taliban might very well believe that they are the pinnacle of human civilization…

The problem here, is that Harris puts forth some ways to measure human well-being, that it would seem we could all agree on. I suppose the Taliban might not. I’ll let the fellow speak for himself.

Afghan women have a 12% literacy rate and a life expectancy of 44 years. Afghanistan has nearly the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. It also has one of the highest birthrates. Consequently, it is one of the best places on earth to watch women and infants die. And Afghanistan’s GDP is currently lower than the world’s average was in the year 1820.  It is safe to say that the optimal response to this dire situation—that is to say, the most moral response—is not to throw battery acid in the faces of little girls for the crime of learning to read. This may seem like common sense to us—and it is—but I am saying that it is also, at bottom, a claim about biology, psychology, sociology, and economics.

The rabbi, OTOH, paints this as ‘somehow scientific’ and is purposefully vague about Harris’ claims, making them easier to attack. Moving on from this, the rabbi then holds forth on meaninglessness and amorality.

Either way, why exactly does he care? What difference could it possibly make what one random collection of electrons does to another? He harbors some subjective notion that things ought not be done that way? Well tough darts.

This was answered nicely in the comments on the article: it’s what we’re programmed to do. If holding the door open for somebody makes me feel good, I might as well do it. And I don’t need some galactic peeping tom with delusions of lechery to convince me to do it.

Oh, but he’s not done…

In fact, the most sensible and logically consistent outgrowth of the atheist worldview should be permission to get for one’s self whatever one’s heart desires at any moment (assuming that you can get away with it). Why not have that affair? Why not take a few bucks from the Alzheimer victim’s purse — as it can not possibly have any meaning either way.

It is amusing to contemplate these ideas, since it took a rabbi to come up with these silly crimes – dare I suggest that he’s considered a few rolls in the hay, robbing a few blind men? Eh, sure. Dare. But it’s also amusing to see what he can’t imagine. That some basic idea like reciprocity, that makes so much sense it pops up in societies all over the world, didn’t require divine intervention to conceive of it. In fact, it’s not hard to discover it in ancient history where the notion of Jesus or the judeo-christian god-concept had nothing to do with it.

One might go further and consider the idea that the ‘Golden Rule’ was not a creation of the Abrahamic religions or their god-concept, but one it borrowed from elsewhere, from earlier societies. More on that later, when the rabbi trots out atheism stealing its morality from xianity.

Did not Richard Dawkins teach us that selfishness was built into our very genes?

Pointed out in the comments again, the answer is ‘no’. It is not that selfishness is programmed into us by genes, but that the genes themselves are selfish; that was the point of The Selfish Gene. Their selfish goal is to reproduce, and to do it the most. But this isn’t enough. He has to return fire on Dawkins, for The God Delusion, I suspect.

It boggles the mind how anyone with this worldview even bothers to get up in the morning only to suffer through another bleak and meaningless day. Freud summed this up well when he said, “the moment a man questions the meaning and value of life he is sick, since objectively neither has any existence.”

Again I have to chuckle at the commenters – one points out that, since this expected behavior is not observed, the rabbi might conclude that his assumptions are wrong. But no; better to get some use out of that straw man. He’s not done bashing atheism. His next idea is that atheists should be racists.

Furthermore, doesn’t Darwinism suggest that certain groups within a given population will develop beneficial mutations, essentially making them “better” than other groups? It would seem that racism would again be a natural conclusion of this worldview — quite unlike the theistic approach which would suggest that people have intrinsic value do to their creation in the “image of God.”

This presumes (naturally, presumptions are involved) that we could identify such beneficial mutations, and that they wouldn’t spread through the population, as beneficial mutations ought to do. It’s not as if beneficial mutations have to be big and obvious. We expect them, based on our scientific understanding, to be small and gradual.

Of course, the rabbi also pointedly ignores the history of religiously-inspired racism, as if religion were some sort of vaccine against bad thoughts. Our country’s history provides ample evidence against this nonsense. Slavery and discrimination have been defended via religion – and also opposed via religion – since before the Civil War.

Incidentally, if he’d hoped to present the judeo-xian POV as that ‘objective morality’ he thinks he needs, that’s enough to shoot it down right there, as I’ve mentioned before. Cue the rabbi…

I would suspect that the great majority of the atheistic understanding of morality comes directly or indirectly from what is commonly referred to as the Judeo-Christian ethic. I have not yet found an atheist who is willing to follow his or her convictions through to their logical conclusions (outside of sociopaths like Jeffrey Dahmer…

Ah, of course. He went for it! So if you were wondering where my subject line came from, there you have it. The rabbi wonders how the skeptic can bother to get up in the morning, he quotes Freud to hint that we’re mentally ill, and compares us to a serial killer.

So again I wonder what fun could be had deriving what religious beliefs and principles judaism and xianity drew from the societies and religions that preceded them. Just to point out how this ‘Judeo-Christian ethic’ isn’t quite the special snowflake it’s made out to be. Could be my next project.

After claiming to know and have conversations with atheists he thinks are ‘good people,’ because they supposedly don’t buy into the ‘logical’ amorality and steal xian values, he nevertheless concludes with an imperative to STFU. I consider his ‘private conversations with atheists’ to be in the time-honored trope of ‘some of my best friends are…’ and about as trustworthy a claim as the rest of this drek. After all, he never seems to take on board anything that the skeptical commenters mention in response to his articles. It’s just oh, they’re good people, so they must be good for the reasons that suit me.

You can’t have it both ways. If one has embraced the worldview that embraces amorality, then it would be logical to admit that one’s personal morality is based on subjective preferences and comforting fiction or to recuse oneself from discussions (and lectures) on the topic.

He uses a quote by ‘Dr. Joel Marks’ to back this up, and of course it’s not sourced, it’s cut up from something, and I can’t even find this guy:

As Dr. Joel Marks said, “the long and short of it is that I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and since I am an atheist, I must therefore embrace amorality…”

I suppose a rabbi could be excused for the mistake of trying arguments from authority, being so used to the ‘god did it’ backup answer for everything. But I don’t buy this quote, I have no reason to accept it just because you found a ‘Dr.’ to say it, or because he claims to be an atheist. He could be an atheist and wrong. And it will take more than a quote to build that authority.

In the end, I understand that the rabbi’s sense of morality is as subjective as mine; no religious morality based on the bible has been objective AFAIK. Whether it’s a set of rules that the people in the book break, and the god-concept itself breaks…or a set of rules with some ‘divine command theory’ backing them up, where the standard of good is ‘whatever god says just then’…they’re not objective. They’re subjective, and often, repulsive. Much like a rabbi who paints a picture of me as some depressed, deranged psychopath.

I often see this argument, though, even presented by believers as what they think they would be without their religion. Without their god-rules, they sometimes say, what would stop them from theft, rape and murder? Not that their supposed ‘objective morality’ does stop them consistently, anyway. Believers are completely unremarkable in terms of their behavior. If anything, I could point to prison statistics that suggest more prisoners are believers, proportionally. But it’s not necessary. It is enough to see that their religious beliefs do not make them in any way special. However much they might claim to be.

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Definitional dodgeball

March 8, 2011

I’ve given up on the Rational Skepticism forum for awhile, due to a disagreement over the application of the rules there; I must be the lawful-evil type, always a stickler compared to the moderators supposedly watching over me.

Lacking that input for skeptical topics, I can always count on Huffington Post to supply vacuous apologetics put forth by religious authorities. In other words, they make a good target. It makes me wonder sometimes just what it takes to become a rabbi. Like the catholic priests who had no answers for me, this fellow attempting some dialogue with skeptics isn’t up to snuff either. Presented under the modest (ha!) claim of ‘A Reasonable Argument for God’s Existence,’ what we get is the same old incredulity. Well, that and merchandising!

Rabbi Moshe Averick has done yeoman’s work in deconstructing the popular arguments in favor of naturalistic explanations to the origin of life and has concurrently demonstrated the high degree of intellectual vigor of theistic reasoning. This post is a paraphrase of his analysis of the origin of life problem that confronts the naturalist camp within the scientific community. A full treatment is available in his indispensable book Nonsense of a High Order.

As I break the link to Amazon out of spite.You can be a shill for books, I won’t help.

The rabbi comes off as unimpressed with science. You see, it has not explained the origin of life yet, and apparently the discovery of DNA started a clock ticking. Did you know? I had no idea we were supposed to have explained everything by now. Mind you, this is the same sort of argument that used to apply to biology in general, until the theory of evolution came along. That the rabbi must invoke abiogenesis instead demonstrates the shrinking gaps into which his god-concept must be force-fit. Used to point at lightning and floods and plague and say ‘god did it’ then, too.

One might suppose that in the six or so decades since the discovery of the DNA molecule by Watson and Crick during which researchers have been investigating the origin of life they might have come up with some pretty solid leads to explain it. The truth of the matter is that we see scientists coming up surprisingly empty-handed and that even within scientific circles, the few hypotheses they do have are shredded to ribbons by their colleagues within the scientific community.

So what he’s talking about is a lack of evidence explaining the origin of life. That’s important later, talking about evidence. Or a lack thereof. Also, the origin of life — as opposed to everything scientists have discovered about self-replicating molecules, plausible pathways, and so on, many pieces of a puzzle that (skeptics as they are) they seem loathe to put a definitive stamp on.

The rabbi then continues the argument via quotes, i.e. argument by authority. For example, he takes this one and sets up a false dilemma using it. Or should I say abusing? Eh, ok. I’ll say abusing.

“The theory behind theory is that you come up with truly testable ideas. Otherwise it’s no different from faith. It might as well be a religion if there’s no evidence for it.” (Dr. J. Craig Venter, Biologist and one of the first people to sequence the human genome)

Another time-honored trope of the believer, pulling whatever quotes serve one’s purpose, and make sure you don’t include any context or link to where you got it from. I noticed that one of the commenters on the article dug up where he got a quote from Robert Shapiro, showing that the rabbi abused that one, too. At this point, I expect it.

It’s bad that I expect the priestly class to be deceptive, really. Bad for them.

The rabbi then decides, based on the Venter quote, that it is an article of faith to believe that science will come up with an answer, or, the skeptic must resort to random chance. There is the false dilemma, of course. After merely dismissing the past decades of scientific work as having come up with nothing, the rabbi chooses to ignore the record of scientific investigation. As if science were some unproven magic act, not worth a moment’s trust. Keep that in mind the next time you use a computer, rabbi, or for that matter an automobile, or a pharmaceutical, or an airplane. Do we really have no evidence to suggest any degree of confidence in scientific investigation? Does that lack of evidence charge still hold up?

So there is some dodgeball over the meaning of evidence going on, in that the rabbi begins with this lack of conclusive evidence for abiogenesis and conflates this with evidence suggesting any confidence in finding an answer. I think the record of scientific discovery speaks for itself there.

Random chance, the proposed and fake alternative, is a favorite of believers because of all the bogglingly huge numbers one can come up with. Like the bogus calculations over the random assemblage of proteins that would result in hemoglobin, assuming random chance makes the activity of life look ridiculously implausible. And this is the point for the believer: make the alternatives look bad. Don’t talk about the religion itself. Fool the non-believer into religion and don’t look back!

So after attacking the scientific record as having produced no evidence of merit, for lacking evidence to explain the origin of life, the rabbi turns right around and proclaims this lack to actually be evidence of something.

I posit to you that all the evidence points, in an obvious and inextricable way, to a supernatural explanation for the origin of life. If there are no known naturalistic explanations and the likelihood that “chance” played any role is wildly minute, then it is a perfectly reasonable position to take that a conscious super-intelligence (that some of us call God) was the architect of life on this planet. Everyone agrees to the appearance of design. It is illogical to assume its non-design in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

So in summation, what evidence is he talking about? None, supposedly, to explain the origin of life. We go from talking about a lack of evidence to having some. What was it? The meaning of the word shifts again. Absence of evidence becomes evidence of…no, not absence…of something else entirely. A god!

What makes it reasonable to assume a god-concept in the absence of any naturalistic explanation? What makes it reasonable to assume ‘I don’t know, therefore god’? Nothing. It is simply his bold and nonsensical assertion that an argument from incredulity is somehow reasonable.

Sorry, pal. It’s not.

I did enjoy the blithe reference to a conscious super-intelligence (that some of us call God) as if there were no big difference between a god and some advanced alien species, say. Of course, there isn’t much difference is there, in that both explanations just push it back a step.

Sadly, this is something the rabbi touched on, and yet he could not see how well it applies to his own supposedly reasonable argument.

Evolution can only begin once we already have a dazzlingly complex, self-replicating, living cell with which to work. That — the origin of that first cell, not what happened thereafter — is the fundamental basis of disagreement between theist and atheist. I make that statement with a full awareness of the fact that scientists hypothesize the prior existence of “simple” self replicating molecules that led up to the emergence of the DNA based bacterium; but this just pushes the question back a step.

Never mind those creationists, they don’t exist. What? Sorry again. The fundamental disagreements go far beyond where you say they go. There are plenty of believers who dispute evolution, even if you think it’s a done deal.

Moreover, his claims about when evolution is allowed to begin are demonstrably false. Evolutionary processes aren’t limited to living cells; scientists use evolutionary processes in other fields. Good luck demonstrating that self-replicating molecules cannot be subject to evolution.

But posit a god, for the sake of argument. Is this not just pushing the question back a step? Does it help to explain anything to slap a label like ‘god’ on what you don’t know? Why is the god-concept not also subject to explanation, as the rabbi demands for self-replicating molecules? The hypocrisy is rank.

Sorry pal, but not only is your argument not reasonable (it is, in the end, fallacious and rightly dismissed), but it is simply begging the skeptic to stop asking questions, stop looking, stop investigating. Just call it ‘god did it’ and stop. We don’t know now, so we’ll never know. It’s been however many decades. That’s enough looking.

It’s a shame readers can’t tag posts like these. I would have hit it with ‘presumptuous nonsense’. At least when I try to explain something, I’ll call it trying. I can admit that I may be wrong. I’m skeptical of my own conclusions. Not this guy! Sorry, rabbi.

Well, of course one of the priestly class would be more…faithful in his arguments, eh? I’ll give it my own tag here, since I can’t there.