Thursday, July 14, 2011

Today I arrived at TAM. I met several interesting people who I want to remember. I'll edit this later.

Collin from Science Based Parenting was quite helpful and introduced me to several people.

One of them was David from the Dallas area who runs a skeptics group there. I'll have to see if Hillary would be interested in meeting with them.

Barbara Drescher, cognitive psychologist and promoter of science based skepticism. Her husband was funny and told me about a crazy sex-themed house in aspen colorado. Her in laws quite charming.

I met Two great fellows from Australia. I will have to get their names again as i have forgotten. They live in the Melbourne area. One is a Pharmacist and the other a Social Worker. We talked about what got us started in skepticism and about the Australian census, among many topics.

Greg from Vancouver was great to talk with today. He's new to the skeptic movement but always considered himself to have a skeptical approach to the world. He is a programmer who makes video games.

I said a quick hello to Matt Lowry from our north suburban atheists and freethinkers group.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Founding Fathers argument

We often hear Christians insisting that America was built on Christianity, or that this is a "Christian Nation." Bullshit. Most of the influential members of this group were deists at most.

Here also is a really interesting comment from Reddit, from the user somn:

Don't play the quote game, go right to the heart of the matter.

The political and economic theories on which the US was built come from the Enlightenment. The enlightenment explicitly rejected religion as a basis for political and economic theories.

Follow up by inquiring where in the Bible it speaks of individual liberties and free market economics? Show me a single reference to democracy. Now, ctrl+f and search the words "kingdom", "king", and "lord". Tell me, if you were to base a government on the Bible, would it be a representative democracy or a monarchy?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Talk to me about what you believe

I'm interested in what people believe. I appreciate Matt Dillahunty's perspective: tell me what you believe and why you believe it. I think this posture provides a great way for believers to frame their presentations, and it demonstrates the real position of skepticism. It's a reaction to claims made by believers.

When we talk about your beliefs, however, I'll not be convinced of the truth of your claims by arguments from authority, arguments from ignorance, or arguments from personal experience. Your life experience is not sufficient to demonstrate the truth of your claims to someone else. Likewise, the fact that you can't think of a better explanation for something doesn't demonstrate that your claim is true. Finally, appeals to religious authority hold no sway for those who do not accept that authority.

There are other logical fallacies, but those three are the ones that will stop our discussion in its tracks. Let's be open and honest about the issues we discuss. If we are, we'll have a much better chance at creating a mutual understanding.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Here's a really enlightening statement made by Christopher Hitchens in a debate vs. Frank Turek.

It's an insult to be told that without superstition or the supernatural we wouldn't know how to treat one another well, or know the difference between right and wrong.

The emancipation of humanity, which has taken a very great deal of time, just as the expansion of our life expectancy had to be worked on very hard. When it was left just to god to decide these things, we didn't live very long, couldn't cure any diseases, and didn't know that our planet wasn't the center of the universe. But once this emancipation has begun, I think it is unstoppable. And the emancipation of hunanity begins when you throw off the idea that you live in a celestial North Korea, and that only a dictator can give you permission to think, behave well, or act morally.
I really like the connection between life expcetancy and the progress of unbelief. After creeping up very slowly over tens of thousands of years, from say 25 to 35 years, life expectancy has nearly doubled in the past 150 years. Throwing off the shackles of superstition and looking at the world scientifically has granted us more life than humanity ever experienced as when the world was ruled by gods. I think it's conceivable that the next 150 years could see another doubling of life expectancy. Imagine living in a time when we could expect live to be 150 years old, running marathons into our 120's. Such a gift of life will not be possible with societal adherence to a theistic worldview. We have to move beyond dogma to reach our full potential.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

One thing that really bugs me

I really enjoy discussing religion with people who are open to an honest discussion. Even if we don't agree on much, it's fascinating to see how differently we can perceive the world around us.

What I can't stand is people who profess an expertise in religious matters without having spent much time bothering to understand the basic arguments. There's a rabbi posting on Huffpost (okay, not much credibility there, but that's another discussion) who has written an open letter to atheists. He writes:
The first point I'd like to explore is that there really are no true atheists. It seems to me that in order to claim with certainty that there is no God you would have to have knowledge of the totality of the universe - seen and unseen - and I don't think any of you guys are ready to make that claim.

Perhaps Rabbi Jacobs is honestly mistaken about the claims of atheism, in which case he will most certainly acknowledge his error, rethink his position, and rewrite the missive with some humility. On the other hand, I have a hard time believing that a Rabbi wouldn't understand the basic position of atheists. If the second case is true, he's simply lying to readers who don't have a strong understanding of the arguments.

A serious person will at least go through the trouble of understanding the arguments before wading into these waters. Maybe Rabbi Jacobs will surprise me and reassess his letter and try again. If not, he's just another in a long line of deceitful religious leaders who are afraid of having honest discussions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Christmas Letter from Ricky Gervais

Ricky's Christmas Letter

This letter is both funny and eloquent. Along with Tim Minchin's White Wine in the Sun, this sentiment represents my own views of Christmas and religion quite well.