Rebirth of Reason

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - 11:42amSanction this postReply
I am sorry to have to report feeling underwhelmed.  The convention is really "Criticizing Christianity" and not really about "atheism." per se.  In fact, most of the self-described Catholics I know could blow those guys out of the water, since they are "attacking" (if that is the word) only the most simple-minded elements and exponents of theism, and just one kind of theism at that.

Really, when it comes to "a-theism" we have a non-topic a non-subject for a non-issue lacking proof where none is needed.  That is why Ayn Rand (among others) refused to make a big deal out of it.

On the other hand, if you want to disassemble the claims involving "god" and "divinity" then you have to do a bit of work.  As much for my own amusement as for a come-on, when I meet an attractive Greek woman, I always ask, "Are you a goddess?"  She will invariably laugh and ask what I mean.  I say that the ancients believed that the gods of Olympus come down to Earth and if someone looks special, they might be a goddess or a god.  See how that works?  So, given what people are -- hairless apes: if you doubt that, look around -- how do you explain those who are smarter, better looking, a cut above, something special?  Does divinity not exist?

Here's one:  Cicero in Dererum Deorum says that we know the gods exist because people have reported seeing them and the senses are valid.

So, OK, maybe there is metaphysically no "creator" of the universe, but it is easy to suggest from the discontinuities in the fossile record that Earth has been interfered with.  Forces greater than we can muster and can only imagine in science fiction probably intervened in the "natural" evolution --- if evolution itself is unplanned -- and left a clear record.

Well, I am not about to argue any of this too strongly, but I submit that all of it is arguable and stands prima facie on its own merits.

Why is the idea of the divine so persistent?

Post 1

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - 3:27pmSanction this postReply
We listened to Julia Sweeney's CD Letting Go of God at the last local Objectivist gathering I attended. It was delightful.

Julia Sweeney

Post 2

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - 3:45pmSanction this postReply
Thanks for sharing that with us. It's nice to see that there are some women atheists who also look really good!

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - 6:25pmSanction this postReply
"the discontinuities in the fossil record"

What discontinuity?

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - 8:23pmSanction this postReply
Thanks for the link, Bob!  Julia Sweeney is funny. 

She is not listed as a speaker on the actual convention website.

Again, she is taking on the easy targets.  That's fine for Penn & Teller whose audiences are television viewers and people who think that Las Vegas could offer "entertainment."  I am sure that she will be a real hoot at dinner.

Carl Sagan was an atheist.  In Contact, he posits some interesting hypotheses.  Science fiction?  Entertainment?  Perhaps. 

A-theism is an attack on a non-entity.  So, there is the question of just what it is that a-theism is against.  (Even an-archy is better defined.)

Moreover, silly as Santa Claus, first communions, and Deepak Chopra may be, they do not encompass religion.  I am not a religious person by nature, so I am not versed in the literature.  In fact, I  agree with many of the sentiments reflected in Julia Sweeney's lampoons.  Nonetheless, I have to take notice of the fact that Aristotle used the word "god" (Deos as grammatically distinct from its nominal, Zeus) and that Newton wrote more about religion than he did about mathematics.  So, I am willing to grant that I have a huge lacuna in my knowledge.

Here's a clue:  we call it capitalism, not a-communism.  They call it communism, not a-capitalism.  But when it comes to the divine, we run out of ways to say "not."  Must be hard to say...

Post 5

Thursday, February 8, 2007 - 3:08pmSanction this postReply
     "Why is the idea of the divine so persistent?"

     Well, I'd say let's start with Jennifer Lopez, Angela Bassett, Michelle Pfeiffer, and work back historically through some other female celebs (porn and non-, Hllywd and non-, those real and merely visually-portrayed art/photo'd, etc.)

      May not be relevent to 'proof' re a creatrix, but, 'divine'? Definitely.


Post 6

Saturday, February 10, 2007 - 2:53pmSanction this postReply
Michael has a point about school-yard Christian-bashing (what, precisely, is the value to which THAT action is aimed?).

Julia Sweeney has a point about Deepok Chopra being chock full of shit, and about "half an eye" being an evolutionary advantage over "none of an eye" (approximately "half" as advantageous as a whole eye).

Dean has a point about fossil discontinuity. It starts out when you find fossils from 2 different time periods. But there's a gap. A gap between them. You see, you've found fossils from 2 different time periods, but you haven't yet found a third fossil between those 2 times. Then, you find a third fossil, one that is between the 2 time periods -- and the Creationists scream: "But that just leaves TWO new gaps to explain! The one between the earliest one and the middle one, and the one between the latest one and the middle one!"

This business keeps on going and going. Anthropologists find another fossil. Creationists complain about the "new" gap (even though it has always become progressively smaller). It is really ridiculous. The begged question is, of course, that there can't be progress in finding fossils; all of them have to be found at the same time, providing a detailed and sequential progression -- or there's a creator. Even adolescents can figure out what is wrong with THAT kind of thinking.

Oh, and John Dailey has a point about divinity and Jennifer Lopez, Angela Bassett, and Michelle Pfeiffer!



Post 7

Saturday, February 10, 2007 - 6:57pmSanction this postReply
Regarding the discontinuous fossil record:
Gaps in the fossil record are time intervals with no fossils of a taxonomic group after the group first appeared and before it went extinct.
     Nearly all of the gaps in the fossil record of the theropod dinosaur group that includes birds - the Coelurosauria - are between species, because most of these species occur only at a single time in the fossil record. These gaps are implied by the presence of some, but not all, of the groups of coelurosaurians in the Late Jurassic.
     Humans have a fossil record extending back over 5 million years (perhaps over 6), whereas chimpanzees - our closest relatives - have no recorded fossils older than a few thousands of years (gorillas have a similarly poor fossil record).

James M. Clark
Ronald Weintraub Associate Professor of Biology
Systematics and Paleontology of Dinosaurs and Crocodylomorpha
Department of Biological Sciences
George Washington University
A.B. (University of California, Berkeley, 1978)
M.S. (University of California, Berkeley, 1985)
Ph.D. (University of Chicago, 1986)
Post-Doctoral Work: Zoology Department, U.C. Davis (1987-1989), National Museum
of Natural History (1989-1991), American Museum of Natural History (1991-1994).

As Ed points out, this needs to be beyond schoolyard taunting of the simpleminded.

Gaps in the Rock and Fossil Records and Implications for the Rate and Mode of Evolution.
Smith, Grant Sackett
Journal of Geological Education, v36 n3 p143-46 May 1988
Examines three types of gaps in the fossil record: real gaps, imaginary gaps, and temporary gaps. Reviews some recent evidence concerning evolution from the paleontological record of microfossils, invertebrates, and vertebrates in order to make some general conclusions regarding the manner in which life evolved on earth. (CW)
EJ378004 - (Not available via ERIC)
When you consider that in our time, certainly since World War II, science has generally been controlled by government directly and by public education in general you always have to consider everything de novo.  You cannot just buy into everything that passes for "science" on the grounds that it is against "religion."  Christians claim that Darwinian evolution is flawed.  That is true.  They do claim that.  It is also true that the theory of Darwinian evolution is flawed.  To admit the latter fact is not to attend church with the former group.
The earliest possible choristodere (Diapsida) and gaps in the fossil record of semi-aquatic reptiles
Univ. Bristol, dep. geology, Wills memorial building, Bristol BS8 1RJ, ROYAUME-UNI
New fossil material of the problematic reptile species Pachystropheus rhaeticus from the uppermost Triassic (Rhaetian) of England, and re-examination of other specimens, demonstrate that it may be the earliest known example of the Choristodera, a poorly understood group of semi-aquatic diapsid reptiles. As a result, the fossil record of choristoderes is extended back in time by approximately 45 million years and a significant gap in the fossil record of these reptiles is highlighted. Failure of the record to reveal the evolutionary histories of those reptilian taxa that are most prone to fossilization (i.e. semi-aquatic and aquatic forms) emphasizes the need for rigorous, character-based studies in phylogenetic analysis of tetrapod lineages, rather than reliance upon stratigraphical position as an indicator of phylogenetic branching sequence

Journal of the Geological Society  (J. Geol. Soc.) 
ISSN 0016-7649  
1993, vol. 150 (6), pp. 1103-1107 (40 ref.)

You have think outside the box.  Of course, most things are pretty much as they seem to be.  However, as I said in another post, no matter where you stand on Earth, it appears flat and infinite.  So, common sense -- and everyone else's opinions -- must yield to your own empirical rational judgment. 

The Oxygen Gap
based on an University of Washington release
  A new book by Peter Ward suggests dinosaurs became dominant because they developed efficient respiratory systems.
Vertebrate creatures first began moving from the world's oceans to land about 415 million years ago, then all but disappeared by 360 million years ago. The fossil record contains few examples of animals with backbones for the next 15 million years, and then suddenly vertebrates show up again, this time for good.

The mysterious lull in vertebrate colonization of land is known as Romer's Gap, named for the Yale University paleontologist, Alfred Romer, who first recognized it. But the term has typically been applied only to pre-dinosaur amphibians, and there has been little understanding of why the gap occurred.
Now a team of scientists led by University of Washington paleontologist Peter Ward has found a similar gap during the same period among non-marine arthropods, largely insects and spiders, and they believe a precipitous drop in the oxygen content of Earth's atmosphere is responsible.
Astrobiology Magazine
Information and discussion groups devoted to Extrasolar life; Extreme life; Life and Giant Planets; Mars Life; Meteors, Comets, and Asteroids; Missions; New Planets; Stellar Evolution; Terrestrial Climate History; Terrestrial Origins.

More information is available at
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-Ames Research Center (ARC)
Site affiliated with NASA's Ames Research Center.

Basically, the answer is, "I don't know... but I keep trying to find out."


Post 8

Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 10:28pmSanction this postReply

Now a team of scientists led by University of Washington paleontologist Peter Ward has found a similar gap during the same period among non-marine arthropods, largely insects and spiders, and they believe a precipitous drop in the oxygen content of Earth's atmosphere is responsible.

If true and integrated, this evidence supports Darwinian evolution -- as opposed to speculative Creationism. Do you see how?


Post 9

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 2:47amSanction this postReply
Basically, the answer is, "I don't know... but I keep trying to find out."
 Ever factored panspermia theory into your inquiries, MM? That's the only way it makes sense to me.

Post 10

Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 4:43pmSanction this postReply
Panspermia, the idea that life on earth came from spores from outer space, only begs the question, pushing it back one level. We can then ask, well, where did the spores come from? Given a large enough body of water with carbon, inorganic salts, and free energy, life seems to arise spontaneously without much difficulty. Se the work of Stuart Kauffman Origins of Order.

As for gaps in the fossil record, just show me inconsistencies in the fossil record. Then I'll take notice. I don't doubt my existence because I sleep each night. Show my my own dead corpse, or let me hold my toddler-self in my own hands and then I will start worrying.

As for the divine, I like all of what Mike has said above, and add my own thoughts.


Post 11

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - 2:36pmSanction this postReply
I found this by accident following links from Penn & Teller to James Randi to Richard Dawkins and... you know... it is quite interesting... 

Anyone can do this (and many have):

So, I guess the answer to the first question is that all genomes contain the same amount of information, but the stuff carries different meanings, as if all the books in the world were the same length in characters, and made up of the same characters, but the permutations are different.  Is there a biologist in the house?
Ted Keer: Panspermia, the idea that life on earth came from spores from outer space, only begs the question, ...  Show my my own dead corpse, or let me hold my toddler-self in my own hands and then I will start worrying.
The universe could not have had a creator.  Earth could have.  Even if Earth's existence were the result of "chance" it could have been discovered and managed (perhaps even for profit).  The fossil record cannot violate the laws of reality.  It can -- and does -- have gaps as the result of direct genetic manipulation of the plants and animals.  Even the climates and their changes could be the consequences of planning.  To admit to this is not to endorse omniscient omnipotent blah blah blah, but just to recognize that whatever we can do, others can do more of.

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 5/30, 8:08pm)

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