Saturday, September 25, 2010

Work

Work has taken over so much of my time, I haven't had a chance to post in awhile and I should.

Watch this space.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Transformer War for Cybertron

This is a great game. It is very similar to gears of war due to the third person shooter aspect of the game. I have played through a bit of the campaign and so far this game is really good. The load times are little to non-existent (at least on my computer). I think that where gears of war went wrong this game went right.

Pros:
1) the graphics are pretty good and seamlessly transition between scenes.

2) The story is nice

3) Megatron is a real asshole

4) Violence, transformers are destroyed left and right.

5) the controls are really easy to get use to.

6) seems to have a decent replay value to it.

Cons:
1) There is no map (or I have not found this function)

2) The story seems like it is missing the first 10,000 years before this game begins. (as the tv show doesn't give us this I have no idea where this game is coming from)

3) I enjoy gaining experience and levels with abilities, this game doesn't seem to incorporate this.

Overall I would rate this game 8.5/10

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brian Greene Talks About The Beauty of Science



Biologists should learn from physicists that the beauty of science does not lay with curing cancer, but in understanding the very nature of who and what we are. Cures and such are necessities but should not take precedence over our basic research programs.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Can a Christian believe in evolution?

Recently I was sent an article from some sort of UK Christian site with the above title. (HERE) The article goes through with its claim and says that you can be a Christian and believe in evolution. Short answer, yes, yes you can. But not without a cost, a Christian who believes in evolution has to ignore large portions of the bible since evolution (or science in general) is in direct conflict with several major tenants of Christian dogma. (Original sin, god creating the earth, the earth being 6,000 years old, Jesus dying to redeem us of our original sin, Naoh’s flood, the garden of Eden existing)

Normally what we see from Christians who believe in science is that they tend to say ok “most” of science is true, but GOD made it that way. Why? It is because a large portion of these people are too afraid to admit that their deity has no place in modern society and they find the need to cling on to their Neolithic faiths for comfort and security from an uncertain afterlife. A type of behavior that I would classify as being weak, too weak to face reality.

I guess to make my point that a Christian can believe in evolution, we could use a couple of analogies. Can a Mormon believe that native Americans are not Jews? Can a Jehovah’s witness approve of blood transfusions? Can a catholic priest believe in and practice pedophilia? Sure, they can believe all of these things and still claim to be a member of whatever religion they are a part of. It just depends on what their interpretation of their holy dogmas is, how much they ignore literal interpretations of the bible and how they define what a Christian is. We can see this in reality considering there are ~38,000 denominations of Christianity with each of them claiming to be the true version of Christianity with each their own special way to be saved and get to heaven.

Now that I have gone through that claim I have a few gripes with the content of the article.

“Perhaps we should start by defining the term ‘evolution’. Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859 as a theory to explain the origins of biological diversity. And at the time, that’s all it was - a biological theory that Christians were in fact quick to declare as a biblical doctrine of creation.”

The origin of species was a book purporting the theory of evolution to explain the observed bio-diversity and it still is. Biological evolution has not changed, only the methods as to how evolution works has changed since Darwin’s time. And in fact Christians were not quick to declare it as a biblical doctrine of creation, Darwin was mocked, his theory was disregarded by most of the religious scientists at the time (which were 99% of all scientists at the time). The Linnaean society where the original paper by Darwin and Wallace had this to say "The year which has passed has not, indeed, been marked by any of those striking discoveries which at once revolutionize, so to speak, the department of science on which they bear". So in fact the views on evolution were very mixed, some Christians accepted it, most didn’t and continue not to (~50% of Americans today and a large portion of the world’s population do not believe in evolution because of conflicting religious interests).

“Unfortunately, as often happens with the big scientific theories, evolution has become encrusted with all kinds of ideological baggage down the years.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was a great populariser of evolution in North America in the latter part of the 19th century, selling 370,000 books, but unfortunately he tried to make evolution into a ‘theory-of-everything’, in which the entire universe was ascending towards ultimate perfection. It was Spencer (not Darwin) who coined the term ‘survival of the fittest’, a notion that was to be misapplied with such terrible consequences by the Kaiser during the First World War and then by Hitler in the Third Reich… But the fact that evolutionary theory has been called upon to justify such a wide range of ideologies as communism, capitalism, racism and militarism, some of them mutually exclusive, should alert us to the dangers of extrapolating scientific theories into arenas in which they actually have little or nothing to say.”

The above statement makes absolutely no sense. Big scientific theories encrusted with ideological baggage? Why even mention Spencer’s Social Darwinism? Social Darwinism has nothing to do with Darwin’s proposed Evolution by Natural Selection. Darwin’s theory of evolution has about as much to do with the first world war, Nazi’s, and communism as gravity has to do with people dying when they jump off of high buildings. Evolution is a fact. Selective breeding works, you can breed for faster horses, bigger cows, all the dogs we see, it works, but, that does not mean that the scientific fact is in anyway responsible for how people behave. Fission and fusion is a property of the universe, it works, setting off nuclear bombs is one use, nuclear power plants another, the sun existing is another.

Mr. Denis R Alexander needs to face reality. If there was no need for a creator of all of life on earth, then what need is their for Christianities creation myths? NONE. Dawkin’s is correct in saying that Darwin’s theory in a way allows atheists to be intellectually fulfilled, I would go one step further and say that every single scientific discovery to date has led to atheists being more intellectually fulfilled. Not one, not even one scientific fact shows any evidence for the supernatural. Why is that? It doesn’t need to be that way. Magic could exist and science would be able to show it, but at this time there is absolutely no evidence for it.

In closing the rest of the article is special pleading. Saying that Christians should believe everything science tells us by claiming that GOD made it that way. With that kind of thinking he has made his position unfalsifiable as anything that science says he can immediately answer with "yes, but GOD did it", and by doing so shows that he is not willing to change his mind (he is close-minded by definition) about the subject, no matter how much evidence is shown to disprove massive portions of the bible he will never stop believing.

“So is it possible to be a Christian and believe in evolution? Certainly, as long as ‘evolution’ refers not to some secular philosophy, but to the biological theory describing how God has created all living things.”

So is it possible to be a Christian and believe in evolution? Certainly, as long as that Christian is willing to ignore the book of genesis and discount all mentions of miracles in the bible.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fucking Magnets How Do They Work?

The group the Insane Clown Posse seems to be made up of uneducated fools. It also seems to follow that they practice the religion of a large many rappers, with their outright bigotry, drugs, anti education, violent lyrics, law breaking, gang banging, and immorality all forgiven because they follow their stupid religion at the end of the day.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Where the Wild Irritating Things Are

200px-Wherethewildthingsare

Of fond memories and childhood times, this movie ruins it all.

The movie starts out with a psychopathic young child running like a mad man and barking like a dog, if you are already irritated by this boy then turn the film off because you will only end up utterly frustrated and disturbed by the end of the film. This film doesn’t contain a single likable character, normal people should not behave like anything portrayed in this film.

The film follows the story of a young boy named Max. This kid is a great example of a child who has no direction in his life, due to a combination of bad parenting skills and a dead-beat father who deserted his family leaving a mother to bring up a child with obviously faulty genes. The opening scenes say a lot about this film, Max decides to throw snow balls (ice balls) at his sisters friends because she won’t play with him. The snowball fight gets heated and Max’s igloo gets smashed, he then gets upset (why? I don’t know why, considering he started the fight in the first place and should have been willing to accept the consequences) and trashes his sisters room destroying everything in sight. Max really needs some serious psychiatric help because he will probably grow up to be a drug addict, social deviant/criminal, or a serial killer considering how much sociopathic tendencies he shows as a child.

Max then gets angry at his mom for not giving him 100% of her time, even though she is busy trying to get this boy a father, he gets angry again, and jumps on the dinner table, bites his mom, then runs away. He finds a boat, travels to an island filled with a bunch of psychopathic monsters and becomes their king through a string of incoherent stories and lies. The book has Max dreaming up the whole ordeal, but in the movie we are made to believe that Max actually traveled to this island (he never eats or drinks anything even though he was there for about a week). Max gets the monsters (who all are suppose to resemble characters from Max’s life, even though there was little to no character development leading the viewer to guess as to who is who) to follow his ill forbidden advice, which leads to all of the monsters but one hating him and wanting to kill and eat him. From scenes of utter danger (trees getting blown up, rocks being hurled, dirt being thrown in sizes to decapitate a grown human) and ignorant stupidity to dismemberment and physical harm (this film glorifies physical harm and makes it seem that ripping off limbs and hitting people is “Good Fun”) this movie has it all. But what I find most disturbing is the absence of any type of resolution, the relationship problems which present themselves in the film are never resolved, which led me to feel lost and almost cheated at the end. The little boy learns no lesson in the end and will continue down his path to self destruction.

The cinematography of wide screen shoots of the environment and musical score is also an obvious rip off of Japanese feature films. But, it worked because people who are ignorant of this would never notice.

The one thing a person can learn from this film is that if your child behaves like this, DO SOMETHING QUICK because if you don’t he will be spending his time in a gutter scoring cocaine for tricks.

I would like to thank the directors and writers of this film for ruining one of my favorite childhood books with this disgrace of a film.

Addendum: I have come to realize that if you are able to relate to the protagonist of the film then this could be a very meaningful and emotional film. But, if you don't have someone who likes the movie to explain to you why they feel connected to the movie then I would still stick clear of it.


Friday, April 2, 2010

In Defense of Evil



Why religion poisons the world.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On the Evolution of Cooperation

A recent paper has been published in the journal of Evolution that shows the evolution of cooperation between two separate species of bacteria. The importance of this paper is that it provides experimental evidence to the previously theorized factors that need to be in place for cooperation to evolve.
(i) directed reciprocation--cooperation with individuals who give in return; (ii) shared genes--cooperation with relatives (e.g., kin selection); and (iii) byproduct benefits
An intriguing hypothesis brought forth by (Sachs et al. 2004) suggests that the "excretion of waste products may provide a mechanism for the initiation of reciprocation." Which the paper experimentally shows and if the model holds true in other cases it could explain much of the symbiosis that we see in organisms (Rhizobium, Corals, etc...). It is not difficult to understand the relationships set by Trivers reciprocal altruism where costs and benefits are weighted against the likely-hood of repayment. ( W > C/B )
"Individuals that pay a cost to help their partners will only spread in a population if they get more of the benefits from the partner than do individuals that do not pay the cost of helping."
Individual selection is used to evolve cooperation and symbiosis. It is a whole other level to propose the selection of cooperative groups as being anyhow a part of symbiosis. It does not to me seem like the case of the fixation of alleles within a group of cooperators can benefit the group without first benefiting the individual. Although an interesting model proposed as fits my own criteria and deserves further notice to see if it is actually valid for the evolution of cooperation.

A simple model of group selection works as follows (51). A population is subdivided into groups. Cooperators help others in their own group. Defectors do not help. Individuals reproduce proportional to their payoff. Offspring are added to the same group. If a group reaches a certain size, it can split into two. In this case, another group becomes extinct in order to constrain the total population size. Note that only individuals reproduce, but selection emerges on two levels. There is competition between groups because some groups grow faster and split more often. In particular, pure cooperator groups grow faster than pure defector groups, whereas in any mixed group, defectors reproduce faster than cooperators. Therefore, selection on the lower level (within groups) favors defectors, whereas selection on the higher level (between groups) favors cooperators. This model is based on "group fecundity selection," which means that groups of cooperators have a higher rate of splitting in two. We can also imagine a model based on "group viability selection," where groups of cooperators are less likely to go extinct.

In the mathematically convenient limit of weak selection and rare group splitting, we obtain a simple result (51): If n is the maximum group size and m is the number of groups, then group selection allows evolution of cooperation, provided that ( b/c>1 +(n/m) )

Martin A. Nowak (8 December 2006)
Science 314 (5805), 1560. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1133755]


But for now I am happy that individual selection can potentially explain a significant proportion of the cooperation and potential symbiosis that we observe in the wild.

ABSTRACT:
Cooperation violates the view of "nature red in tooth and claw" that prevails in our understanding of evolution, yet examples of cooperation abound. Most work has focused on maintenance of cooperation within a single species through mechanisms such as kin selection. The factors necessary for the evolutionary origin of aiding unrelated individuals such as members of another species have not been experimentally tested. Here, I demonstrate that cooperation between species can be evolved in the laboratory if (1) there is preexisting reciprocation or feedback for cooperation, and (2) reciprocation is preferentially received by cooperative genotypes. I used a two species system involving Salmonella enterica ser. Typhimurium and an Escherichia coli mutant unable to synthesize an essential amino acid. In lactose media Salmonella consumes metabolic waste from E. coli, thus creating a mechanism of reciprocation for cooperation. Growth in a spatially structured environment assured that the benefits of cooperation were preferentially received by cooperative genotypes. Salmonella evolved to aid E. coli by excreting a costly amino acid, however this novel cooperation disappeared if the waste consumption or spatial structure were removed. This study builds on previous work to demonstrate an experimental origin of interspecific cooperation, and to test the factors necessary for such interactions to arise.

P.S. It seems to be the case that poop is oddly an important player in the evolution of many species CoEvolution. (Jerry Coynes Blog: Pitcher plant evolves to be shrew loo)


William Harcombe (2010) NOVEL COOPERATION EXPERIMENTALLY EVOLVED BETWEEN SPECIES. Evolution. 21 Jan 2010. DOI: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.00959


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why is this in Nature?

Sure this is great science, but does this really deserve to be in Nature? This concept is almost universally accepted within the biological community and has been since the 70's.

Antagonistic coevolution accelerates molecular evolution

The Red Queen hypothesis proposes that coevolution of interacting species (such as hosts and parasites) should drive molecular evolution through continual natural selection for adaptation and counter-adaptation1, 2, 3. Although the divergence observed at some host-resistance4, 5, 6 and parasite-infectivity7, 8, 9 genes is consistent with this, the long time periods typically required to study coevolution have so far prevented any direct empirical test. Here we show, using experimental populations of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 and its viral parasite, phage Φ2 (refs 10, 11), that the rate of molecular evolution in the phage was far higher when both bacterium and phage coevolved with each other than when phage evolved against a constant host genotype. Coevolution also resulted in far greater genetic divergence between replicate populations, which was correlated with the range of hosts that coevolved phage were able to infect. Consistent with this, the most rapidly evolving phage genes under coevolution were those involved in host infection. These results demonstrate, at both the genomic and phenotypic level, that antagonistic coevolution is a cause of rapid and divergent evolution, and is likely to be a major driver of evolutionary change within species.


Paterson, S., Vogwill, T., Buckling, A., Benmayor, R., Spiers, A.J., Thomson, N.R., Quail, M., Smith, F., Walker, D., Libberton, B., Fenton, A., Hall, N., Brockhurst, M.A. (2010) Antagonistic coevolution accelerates molecular evolution. Nature. 2010 Feb 24. [Epub ahead of print] [doi:10.1038/nature08798]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Miracle of Lanciano Again, 2 years later....

Ok so I am re-uploading this paper.

http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B9kNbgL3NNN1YTdmYzQ0ZTUtNjAxMS00NWI3LTgwOTgtOWMyNzgzOGY4MTNj&hl=en

there, now I hope that this link doesn't go bad because I get lazy and won't check it for a while again.

Now for the people who keep claiming that this was a miracle. What are you claiming is a miracle? The blood and tissue samples were decayed with significant amounts of contaminants in both. No blood cells were found just trace amounts of proteins and unusual amounts of minerals.

Do any of you know what fresh blood looks like? While you are pretending to have stigmata why don't you look at that fresh blood you have cut out of yourselves under a microscope.



Above is what you should see

.
not that

Link to original post: here

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Accomodationists Divide

Accomodationists put forth the idea that science and religion are compatible. At the crux of the argument is the fact that several prominent scientists (Ken Miller, Francis Collins) are religious. The accomodationists would have us believe that because there are religious scientists therefore religion and science are compatible. Guess what, NO. Now, let us see why.

Science is in the practice of empiricism, testing hypothesis, experimentation, and independent validation. While religion (which depending on what you define religion as) is in the practice of belief without evidence, a priori reasoning, revelation, and faith.

Some religions such as the Abrahamic religions purport facts about the world that are in direct conflict with science (6000 year old earth, efficacy of prayer...). These are obviously incompatible with science.

While it is possible to come up with a religion that does not come into complete conflict with scientific facts such as the theoretical "last Thursdayism" (where a person believes in a God who created the world last Thursday with the light from stars on it's way, thoughts planted in our heads and things in their current places), but guess what last Thursdayism is an untestable hypothesis therefore, NOT SCIENCE.

Anyway you look at it a scientists who is religious does not practice science when he/she is practicing their religion. So, until a specific religion provides evidence and testable hypothesis for it's claims that are demonstrably true, religion and science will remain incompatible.

Science organizations such as the NSF, NSCE, NAS should not be in the business of telling religious people that their religions are compatible with science, otherwise known as "lying for science". It is not only dishonest and obviously false, it creates a negative atmosphere where people are not made to confront their false beliefs head on. If a person is told that his beliefs are compatible with science when they are not, what is the probability that this person will even question the validity of their beliefs? Science organizations should not be in the business of taking theological positions and should remain indifferent to religious beliefs and just promote science, instead of telling religious people what to believe.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

On the Intellectual Stance of Bible Literalists

It has been stated by several people (Coyne, Myers, Dawkins) that bible literalists are more intellectually honest than their liberal counterparts. But, is there any truth to this claim? On the opposite side of the spectrum others have fired back with the claim that “All Christian believers pick and choose”, which they claim negates the above statement that bible literalists are more intellectually honest than liberal theologians. So what do we make of this apparent contradiction? Well, it is obvious that what bible literalists believe is different than their modern liberal counterparts, but, do these beliefs make them more intellectually honest?

Intellectual honesty is defined as “consistency” in this instance. The broad definition of intellectual honesty is sometimes put forth as “The willingness to have our certainties about the world constrained by good evidence and good argument.” The broad definition is obviously not applicable to our purposes, considering that there is no good evidence or good arguments for believing in religious beliefs, so we will focus on consistency. Consistency could be looked at as a measure of degree, such as, the degree to which bible literalists believe the word of God to be true.

Considering that the bible is full of internal contradictions and inconsistencies it is unlikely that a true “bible literalist” could even exist, although it is possible for a person to hold two contradictory beliefs as true within their heads due to the complex nature of our CNS, so such a possibility is not truly out of the question. Let’s take an easy example: there are two creation stories within the book of Genesis, now then, which believer is more consistent than the other, a bible literalist who claims that God created the earth 6000 years ago according to either one of these creation stories or a moderate believer who sees both of these accounts as metaphor? What about a moderate believer that sees Christ’s virgin birth as a metaphor, and the literalist who sees it as a statement of fact? The point I am trying to get at is that a bible literalist obviously takes a much larger degree of the bible as fact, while the moderate believer is forced to concede their beliefs in a much more wishy-washy method.

But, what about certain laws in the bible that obviously most people who label themselves as bible literalists do not actively follow? Such as, “Luke 6:30: Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.”, or “Leviticus 20: 9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.” Guess what, a bible literalist does not need to follow these rules in order to still believe that they are true. Let’s look at it from another direction, a moderate believer will view the above as metaphor and thus not practice the above but see it as a moral guideline, while a bible literalist could view both passages as being literal truth but not put those verses into practice making them inconsistent in practice but maintaining consistency in literalistic belief.

So, by using the above definition of intellectual honesty a bible literalist does not need to take the entire bible as truth in order to be more intellectually honest than a moderate believer. He just needs to believe more of the bible as literal truth and not view it as metaphor in order to be considered intellectually honest. Although I must say that I do not think that the word intellectual honesty should be used to label bible literalists, we should just use the words consistency, degree of literal consistency or literalistic honesty when referring to the literalists.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My New Best Friends

These can be found here:Evolution Fucked Your Shit Up: The World’s 50 Freakiest Animals

Ajolote



Pygmy marmoset



Giant coconut crab



Giant salamander



Dumbo octopus

A Rebuttal to a Poor Argument

A Rebuttal to a Poor Argument

This is a rebuttal to a very weak argument/fictional story sent out by one of my friends parents to him arguing for the existence of "God".

'Let me explain the problem science has with religion.'
The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

'You're a Christian, aren't you son?'
'Yes sir,' the student says.

˜So you believe in God?'

'Absolutely.'

Is God good?'

'Sure! God's good.'

˜Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?'

'Yes'

˜Are you good or evil?'

'The Bible says I'm evil.'

The professor grins knowingly. 'Aha! the Bible!' He Considers for a moment. ˜Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? would you try?'

'Yes sir, I would.'

'So you're good...!'

'I wouldn't say that.'

'But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't.'

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. ˜He doesn't, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?'

The student remains silent.

'No, you can't, can you?' the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

'Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?'

'Er..yes,' the student says.

Professor: 'Is Satan good?'

The student doesn't hesitate on this one. 'No.'

'Then where does Satan come from?'

The student falters. 'From God'

'That's right.. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, Son. Is there evil in this world?'

˜Yes, sir.'

'Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make Everything, correct?'

'Yes'

'So who created evil?' The professor continued, 'If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according
to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.'

Again, the student has no answer. 'Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?'

The student squirms on his feet. 'Yes.'

˜So who created them?'

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his Question. 'Who created them?' There is still no answer.. Suddenly the
lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. 'Tell me,' he continues onto another student. 'Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?'

The student's voice betrays him and cracks. 'Yes, Professor, I do.'

The old man stops pacing. 'Science says you have five Senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?'

'No sir. I've never seen Him.'

'Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?'

'No, sir, I have not.'

'Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?'

'No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't.'

'Yet you still believe in him?'

˜Yes'

'According to the rules of empirical, testable, Demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?'

First off the fictitious professor is defining good as something totally different than what the student views as being good and this distinction is not addressed. But, under the views of the professor God is not good and is the creator of all things evil. As for the professors last statement that science says your God doesn’t exist, this is a false statement, science does not say that this or that does not exist, science only says if there is any evidence for the existence of God, which there is none. The above statement about science “says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you” is a misclassification of the scientific method. The scientific method is separate from our five senses, we use our five senses to experience the world but scientific knowledge is gained by non-subjective means. First you may observe a phenomenon but that is not good enough to validate it’s “existence”, that phenomena must be tested for and reproduced, otherwise known as hypothesis testing and falsification. It is also possible to test for things with which we cannot see with our “five senses”, we have x-ray machines, microscopes, and various other indirect methods of observation available.

'Nothing,' the student replies. 'I only have my Faith.'

˜Yes, faith,' the professor repeats. 'And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.'

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of his own. 'Professor, is there such thing as heat?'

'Yes.
'And is there such a thing as cold?'

˜Yes, son, there's cold too.'

'No sir, there isn't.'

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain.
'You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat , a little heat or no heat, but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. ˜Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.'

This is a misuse of the words heat and cold. While the student is correct by stating that we have a concept of what absolute zero is and is correct in his definition of what absolute zero is, he is wrong in his defining that there is no such thing as cold. Temperature is a function of the movement of particles, you can either get colder or hotter based upon what temperature you start with. While there is a absolute zero (which actually physicists don’t believe you can actually get to absolute zero), physicists also believe there is a limit to temperature on both ends, it is called the plank temperature 1.41679 x 10^32 Kelvins, this is the temperature at which space boils, and I will also say that these ideas are only theory that are applicable to our universe, we have no way of knowing at this moment what the laws of physics are if there are multiple universes or dimensions of space. But back to the definition of cold, the word cold being an adjective is widely used as a statement of low-temperature and since it is an adjective it is an arbitrary measurement of the amount of heat and object has. Heat is a noun defined as a form of energy that is produced by the movement of atoms. In no way is the word cold dependent on whether or not we can get past absolute zero on the temperature scale, neither is the word heat dependent upon whether or not we can get past the Planck temperature. The above paragraph shows a false dichotomy of the words cold and heat, then precedes to attacks a straw-man position which no sane person should hold. While yes it is true that we cannot “measure” cold that is because cold isn’t defined as a type of energy it is only defined as an amount of energy in comparison to another object or place.


Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer. 'What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?'

'Yes,' the professor replies without hesitation. 'What is night if it isn't darkness?'

'You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light,
flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?'

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. 'So what point are you making, young man?'

Again the student thinks he is making a point but he isn’t. Darkness is a measure of the amount of light. You can have no light or light. Darkness is defined as the absence of light, the definition is not dependent on whether or not you can make darkness darker. Therefore Darkness is a quantity of light or it’s absence, it is an adjective.


'Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.'

The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. 'Flawed? Can you explain how?'

˜You are working on the premise of duality,' the student explains. 'You argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but it has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.'

The student is actually using flawed logic here. The premise of the professor is not actually fully explained. But even so, within the limited definitions with which the professor used to define good and evil the students God actually falls under those categories. The professor also did not argue that there is life and death, but any sane person should know that there are things with which are alive and things with which are dead. Does the professor actually argue that “God” is measurable? I don’t see anything above that indicates this. The fact is that God is only measurable if he has effects on reality, if this theoretical God has no effects on reality he cannot be tested for and thus shall remain hidden and unknown, although one should keep in mind that this type of God is far removed from the God purported by the followers of the main Abrahamic religions. The student then makes a claim that science cannot explain a thought, actually science can explain a lot of things about a thought, science just doesn’t fully understand all of the mechanisms that go into producing a thought, but we do know bits and pieces of how thoughts are produced. Science also can explain the observed force of electro-magnetism, not to mention that electricity and magnetism are observable, so the student doesn’t make a point here. Now back to the skewed definitions and false dichotomy straw-man positions, death is the act of dying, life means that something is alive, what is the point of saying that they are not opposite?


'Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?'

'If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.'

'Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?'

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed..

'Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?'

Have we evolved from Monkey’s? That depends on whether or not you call the clade which gave rise to primates Monkeys, if you do than we did evolve from monkeys, as we did evolve from reptiles, amphibians, fish. Creationists often think that because the progeny of ancestral Monkey’s still exist and since we call them Monkeys, it is impossible for humans to exist at the same time. Evolution is not a ladder, monkeys do not need to go extinct in order for apes to evolve, two monkey populations can be separated and one population can evolve into a different species by natural selection, all the while the other population due to low selective pressures and high genetic variance can remain “resistant” to evolution. Also Evolution is observable, we can artificially select for many traits in animals and plants, even to the point of evolving different species, this has been done in the lab and on the farm, for as long as the domestication of plants and animals by humans. There is also extensive literature on the evolution of organisms observed within our life-times in scientific journals, through various methods most commonly though natural selection.


The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.

To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.' The student looks around the room. 'Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor's brain?' The class breaks out into laughter. 'Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.'

'So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?'

Actually science can say if the professor has a brain or not. You can do this by various methods i.e. X-ray, cut his head open…. This goes back to the general misunderstanding of what science is. Science is not equal to the human five senses and does not in any way prove that the professor does not have a brain.


Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. 'I guess you'll have to take them on faith.'

'Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,' the student continues. 'Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?'

Actually no one has to take it on faith that the professor has a brain. This is another problem with word use in this lame story. Faith when used by those who are religious is used to delineate a belief in which there is no substantial evidence, an untestable belief, and a belief in which if there is evidence to the contrary should still be believed. While obviously the question of whether or not the professor has a brain is a testable hypothesis and requires no faith, it is simply a reasonable belief. As for the existence of faith, yes there are people who have and use the above definition of faith in their lives, while thinking people who are moral, honest with themselves and open-minded should try to minimize “faith” as much as possible.


Now uncertain, the professor responds, 'Of course, there is. We see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.'

To this the student replied, ˜Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.'

The professor sat down.

The student makes the same error again. Evil as defined by the professor is based upon a simplified utilitarian viewpoint, which states that evil constitutes crime and violence (while I do find this definition lacking it still is a definition). Why would the student claim that evil does not exist, then in the next sentence state that it does exist? Then the student defines evil as the absence of God, as if this definition is a priori correct and better then the simplified utilitarian definition put forth by the professor. So if evil is the absence of God and is analogous to cold and darkness then it is a measure of how much God there is in a system? Lol!? It baffles me to think that the person who wrote this does not consider mindless acts of violence as evil. This has to be one of the most depressing things I have read in quite a while. Why can’t people just be honest with themselves and admit that their God is immoral and evil by any sane usage of the word?

PS: the student was Albert Einstein

Actually, no, the student was probably not Albert Einstein. Einstein would never have argued for such bad arguments based upon misused words, straw-man fallacies, false facts, and poor logic.

The following is an actual statement from Einstein, with which I have posted in the past. It comes from a letter from Einstein that was auctioned off for ~200,000$

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. ... For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong ... have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Delayed Darwin Day Post

My plans were fandangled this year for my Darwin day festivities. I was unable to proselytize Darwin door to door, but there is always next year...

Too busy taking photos of deformed animals on the confocal, ah, well.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Are the terms Atheism and Theism Mutually Exclusive?

Yes,

Two contradicting propositions cannot both be true when one proposition is the direct negation of the other.

This invokes two of the formal laws of logic, Excluded middle and the law of Noncontradiction.

Atheism and Theism is a true dichotomy. Atheism is a lack of belief in a god/Gods, Theism is a belief in a God/Gods.

Now where does that leave agnostics? Agnostics claim that knowledge of a God is unknowable. But is it possible to believe in something that is unknowable? Assuming that the matter is truly unknowable I have to answer yes (it is otherwise known as faith). Therefore the word agnosticism is not mutually exclusive to the terms of atheism and theism. One may call themselves an agnostic and be a theist or an atheist.

But, what about a person who professes no belief in a God and calls himself an agnostic? By default that person is shoved into the true dichotomy of Atheism and Theism, and must label themselves as an atheist, whether he/she likes it or not.

The Misuse of the word "Faith" Reproduced

The following was found on this forum written by a user by the name of MRiedl: I feel it necessary to reproduce it as a great many people do not understand how definitions and words work and do not understand how to argue concepts.

A lot of times on these forums I have heard the word "Faith" applied in two separate incorrect ways.

As such, I am going to make the attempt to explain exactly why misusing the word eventually boils down to a straw man argument.

For those not familiar with the straw man fallacy, it is, in simplest terms, to misrepresent your opponent's position and argue against that misrepresented position.

It is considered a fallacy because you never actually argue against your opponent's position.

=======

The first and most common method of misusing the word Faith is to use the word without regard for definition. Let's begin by looking at the definition:

faith - Definitions from Dictionary.com

Quote:
faith

1.confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.

2.belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

3.belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.

4.belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.

5.a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.

6.the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.

7.the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.

8.Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved. —Idiom

9.in faith, in truth; indeed: In faith, he is a fine lad.
Now, let's break it down into the related groups of definitions:

#'s 1, 4, 6, 7, and 9 all relate to concepts like trust and fidelity.

#2 is a special case.

#'s 3, 5, and 8 are all purely religious terms.

======

As for the top set of definitions, they rarely apply to these matters. Faith is something of a loaded word, and as such, a lot of people like myself shy away from using it because there is a great deal of potential for misunderstanding.

Admittedly I could say "I have faith in the scientific method."

However, I would typically say something like "I have a great deal of confidence in the scientific method."

It's essentially the same thing as faith definition #1, but it lacks the potential for misinterpretation.


Now, when the word Faith is used in these forums, it is typically used either as a religious term, or as #2. Part of the problem is that this is rarely defined specifically.

I have often heard assertions like: "Evolution is a religion which requires faith." where they could be trying to apply either definition #2 or any of the religion specific definitions to it.

The big problem with these assertions is that they are woefully inaccurate.

For an example, I highly doubt that there is a single Atheist here who thinks of evolution as a religion. Similarly, I have yet to see an evolutionist fail to cite evidence as the reason for their belief in evolution.

As such, faith is not a part of their argument, at least as far as the aforementioned definitions go. If you want to dispute the validity of the evidence that is cited, by all means do so. The argument that someone is using faulty evidence is very different from the assertion that they are going without evidence, and faith only applies to the latter.

In other words, you are not actually arguing against the position of your opponent, and you are building a Straw Man.


========

The other, thankfully less common misapplication of the word faith is when people make up their own definition.

Honestly, it just doesn't work. The reason should be obvious. The reader hasn't the slightest clue what your personal definition of the word is. How could they?

You could just as effectively type in random letters as a definition, as the result is exactly the same.

Instead, if you have your own special definition for something like this; please, in the interest of effective communication, just describe it in your own words.

==========

To conclude, I would just like to say that intentionally misusing the word faith as such is only really a propaganda tool, and a rather ineffective one at that. There is really very little that can be done about such of course. That just leaves individuals who are misusing the word unknowingly, at whom this essay is directed.

Whenever I see an assertion like "Evolution is a religion that requires faith." I dismiss it as the rhetoric it is. Why? Because it is demonstrably incorrect and has nothing to do with the arguments involved.

Similarly, I would extend an appeal to people in general to endeavor always to address your opponent's actual arguments when you discuss things. Otherwise you aren't really arguing with them at all.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Look at this Adamant Atheist Scientist

Do you see those fangs and horns growing out of him. Oooohhh he said that religion and myths are on the same level. Can we honestly get over the dishonesty and call a spade a spade. Faith is a belief for which there is no evidence, and a belief which is impervious to contradicting evidence, it does not deserve reverence or respect.



to quote noble prize winner Jack Szostak:

In my view a scientific world view is one based on continuous questioning and therefore a search for more and better evidence and theories; faith in the unknowable plays no role. I think that belief systems based on faith are inherently dangerous, as they leave the believer susceptible to manipulation when skepticism and inquiry are discouraged.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How low can you go?

The following video is supposedly not satire. It consists of a man/preacher telling us how to raise people form the dead through the power of Jesus.

Synopsis: He went to Africa where he was preaching and some Africans interrupt him which makes him angry, they take him to a dead woman, whereupon he raises her from the dead and the Africans run and tackle her, she then steals their money and they tackle her again, then they share the gospel of Jesus Christ with her and she converts to Christianity (OMG Praise the Lord).

Watch this video to see how ridiculously idiotic this shit is. But, I think that this video isn't as bad as the fact that I know that there are some people who will/have watch/watched this and actually believe/believed this shit.




The above idiots website: http://www.kingdomrevelation.org

Saturday, January 23, 2010

One of the Dangers of Pseudoscience

Are there any consequences for believing in things with which there is no evidence for? YES! Dowsing rods do not work and there are consequences for believing that they do.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Cause Worth Donating to

If you have money to spare you can trust that it will go to the right place without the religious baggage attached. If a poor graduate student like me can donate so can you.

"It's an uncaring universe out there, if we don't pull together and support each other, no one else is going to do it for us. We are all we have."

Reproduced from Pharyngula:

Non-Believers Giving Aid

Category: Godlessness
Posted on: January 16, 2010 8:52 PM, by PZ Myers

If you haven't already donated to disaster relief in Haiti, here's your chance: a new umbrella organization to coordinate charitable giving for the godless has been set up. In the first two hours that this was created, over $11,000 has been donated. Get on the bandwagon!

Non-Believers Giving Aid: a religion-free way to help disaster victims

Washington, DC January 17, 2010

In response to the tragedy in Haiti, several organizations representing 'non-believers' and others have set up a disaster relief fund called 'Non-Believers Giving Aid'. In an appeal for donations, the website of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science states (http://givingaid.richarddawkins.net/):

Spurred by the horrific suffering in Haiti, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS) has set up a dedicated bank account and PayPal facility to collect donations to non-religious relief organizations. This new account is in the new name of Non-Believers Giving Aid, with all of the money donated being distributed to disaster relief.

Clearly the immediate need is for the suffering people of Haiti, and all the money raised by this current appeal will go that cause, but the new account will remain available for future emergencies too. There are, of course, many ways for you to donate to relief organizations already, but doing it through Non-Believers Giving Aid offers a number of advantages:

100% of your donation will be go to these charities: not even the PayPal fees will be deducted from your donation, since Richard will personally donate a sum to cover the cost of these (Capped at $10,000). This means that more of your money will reach the people in need.

When donating via Non-Believers Giving Aid, you are helping to counter the scandalous myth that only the religious care about their fellow-humans.

It goes without saying that your donations will only be passed on to aid organizations that do not have religious affiliations. In the case of Haiti, the two organizations we have chosen are:

Doctors Without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières)

International Red Cross

You may stipulate using a dropdown menu which of these two organizations you want your donation to go to; otherwise, it will be divided equally between them.

Preachers and televangelists, mullahs and imams, often seem almost to gloat over natural disasters - presenting them as payback for human transgressions, or for 'making a pact with the devil'. Earthquakes and tsunamis are caused not by 'sin' but by tectonic plate movements, and tectonic plates, like everything else in the physical world, are supremely indifferent to human affairs and sadly indifferent to human suffering. Those of us who understand this reality are sometimes accused of being indifferent to that suffering ourselves. Of course the very opposite is the truth: we do not hide behind the notion that earthly suffering will be rewarded in a heavenly paradise, nor do we expect a heavenly reward for our generosity: the understanding that this is the only life any of us have makes the need to alleviate suffering even more urgent. The myth that it is only the religious who truly care is sustained largely by the fact that they tend to donate not as individuals, but through their churches. Non-believers, by contrast, give as individuals: we have no church through which to give collectively, no church to rack up statistics of competitive generosity. Non-Believers Giving Aid is not a church (that's putting it mildly) but it does provide an easy conduit for the non-religious to help those in desperate need, whilst simultaneously giving the lie to the canard that you need God to be good.

Please help us to help the suffering people of Haiti.


The organizations and supporters actively involved in this effort include:

Atheist Alliance International
Atheists United
The British Humanist Association
James Randi Educational Foundation
Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
Pharyngula
The Reason Project
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
The Skeptics Society

Quoting Richard Dawkins, "The merciless power of tectonic plate movement has conjured a disaster of epic proportions and all of us, whether religious or not, must do all in our power to help."

Author, scientist and Founder of the Reason Project Sam Harris said, " It is widely imagined that, in times of crisis, religious people render aid in disproportion to their numbers. Richard Dawkins has now created an opportunity for nonbelievers, who are rightly focused on the welfare of their fellow human beings in this life, to put the lie to this myth."

The President of Atheists United commented "The indiscriminate consequences of earthquakes, floods, fires and such remind us that there is no god to protect us, and that humankind must come together to do what we can to help and protect each other."

Michael Shermer, the Executive Director of the participating Skeptics Society, notes: "It's all well and good to say that we nonbelievers are just as moral as believers (we are, but that's a philosophical point)--actions count more than words and real donations are where the theoretical rubber meets the practical road. This is our time to pony up and show the world our true character.

Jason Torpey, President of Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers stated, "As they have done with the Out Campaign, Non-Believers Giving Aid continues the RDFRS tradition of positive, community-centered atheist coalition building."

A spokeswoman for the Richard Dawkins Foundation noted, "While those of us who do not believe in a god or gods might identify ourselves as 'atheists', 'humanists', 'non-theists', 'skeptics', 'Freethinkers', or other label - the term 'non-believer' has been brought into the public consciousness by President Obama and is easily identifiable. Independent of whether we are non-believers or not, the tragedy of Haiti pulls at everyone's heartstring. All of us are unified in our humanity."




Non-Believers Giving Aid
http://givingaid.richarddawkins.net


The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is a 501(c)(3).
www.RichardDawkinsFoundation.org
www.RichardDawkins.net

Contact: Liz Cornwell, rec@RichardDawkins.net
719.351.6324
Mailing Address: 11605 Meridian Market View, Unit 124 PMB 381, Falcon CO 80831

Photo downloads: http://richarddawkins.net/media

Contacts for participating organizations

Atheist Alliance International
http://www.atheistalliance.org/
Contact: Stuart Bechman, President email: president@atheistalliance.org
Tel: +01-866-HERETIC.

Atheists United
http://www.atheistsunited.org/
Contact: Bobbie Kirkhart, President email:e-mail president@atheistsunited.org
Tel: 323-229-5500.

The British Humanist Association
http://www.humanism.org.uk
Contact: Andrew Copson, Chief Executive email: andrew@humanism.org.uk
Tel: 020 7079 3584 or 07534 248596.

James Randi Educational Foundation
http://www.randi.org
Contact: D.J. Grothe, President email: idjgrothe@randi.org
Tel: 954-467-1112
Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF)
http://www.maaf.info
Contact: Jason Torpy, President email: president@maaf.info
Tel: 614-329-1776

Pharyngula
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/
Contact: PZ Myers, pzmyers@gmail.com
Tel: 320 589-7116

The Reason Project
http://www.reasonproject.org/
Contact: Sam Harris email: contact@reasonproject.org

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
http://www.RichardDawkinsFoundation.org & www.RichardDawkins.net
Contact: Liz Cornwell, Executive Director email: rec@RichardDawkins.net
Tel: 719.351.6324

The Skeptics Society
http://www.skeptic.com/
Contact: Michael Shermer, Founder email: mshermer@skeptic.com
Tel: 626/794-3119

For information on the Disaster Relief Agencies:

Doctors Without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières)
http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

International Red Cross
http://www.icrc.org/