Thursday, November 4, 2010

What is a nun good for? Experimentation?

Share |
Here follows more useless science. Dare I say it - another rationalisation to defend religion, altruism and 'positive' thinking. Such studies are performed despite the gaping contradiction of the study....its lack of relevance to the broader community. The study professes to look at Catholic nun's with the intent of determining the relationship between their brains and their 'positive thinking'.
The reality is that a nun is a parasite whom live off the guilt-induced efforts of others. They might be non-judgmental, so they are beyond judgement for most people - except me - but they are parasites regardless. They stand alone in that respect. We love to critique the parasitism of others like the unemployed, whom I would suggest mostly want a job, its just that they are validated or financed for doing nothing, so they just cannot motivate to do more than is required.
The guilt or ideological rationalisations which prompts you to support them is fuel for their happiness. They will live well on it. The 'unhappy' nuns are the one's who question their relationship to the world and realise that they are really the 'selfish' ones; but I don't like to call them selfish because they are really simply just 'anti-life', caught in a prison of personal ineptitude. i.e. Prisons of their poor early childhood decisions. Like doing the military.
The bigger target here are the researchers though who think science = correlation. Wrong! You need a theory of values. Your studies on nuns is not directly applicable to the broader population who actually work; moreover because they have a guilt which you seamlessly might avoid by 'virtue' of your utter righteousness. After all - who but me - would shoot down a nun 'metaphorically'...God's poor messengers.
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The virtues of prayer

Share |
Here is a nice video to explain the virtues of praying....and I respond to some of the feedback after.

It is interesting to read some of the comments after the which I will respond:
"Not believing in something (i.e. No god) does not constitute a "belief system", for the same reason that "not fishing" is not a hobby".
Just as believing in a non-existing god is not really believing in anything either. Faith = non reason, altruism = non-self. Religion defiles your nature. Why? No reason. So having reasons for not believing is more of a system than faith, but I agree with your premise that atheists should have a full value system....but whose to say they don't. They are merely staying on topic.
"The notion that religion causes wars because they "KNOW" that they have "the one and only absolute truth".
There is nothing wrong with being certain of your ideas, or 'absolutes' as such. The problem is that religious absolutes are not based on evidence, but rather biblical assertions which cannot be verified to any satisfactory degree. I might add that objective truth is absolute, however it is 'contextual' absolutism.
"You need to realize that man cannot explain everything and in light of the fact that we are all ignorant to some degree or another some of us like yourself need to get off our supposed intellectual high horses and show just a bit of humility".
This is a weak argument. Humanity not being able to explain everything is not the same as not being able to explain everything. Context is everything. You have core knowledge, and you have peripheral knowledge. You can trust that which integrates and corresponds to facts. You can have still more confidence if you are a critical thinker with a propensity to seek and investigate alternative scenarios. I might repudiate the idea that humility is good by highlighting his 'apparent' absence of it. How can a humble person proclaim another people arrogant for having an opinion, which they 'humbly' repudiate.
"Well,as long as you can hate Christianity without hating Christians like Christians hate sin without hating sinners like yourself we should be able to get along. Well,at least not beat the tar out of each other".
Hate? Dislike? Sadly opposing values can make a big difference to our lives. Christianity and other forms of subjectivism are indirectly related to a great deal of collectivist political imposition and coercion, which ultimately destroy lives. That is just the 'political manifestations. Religion destroys lies, whether its the self-righteous parent who invalidates their their child; or the abusive parent who destroys their self-esteem with dogmatic nonsense; or worse sexual abuse. There are people who've been raised with unrealistic fears because of biblical teachings. More problematic and generally, there is the diminished capacity to think logically and critically, well-represented by Christians who cannot respond to logical arguments. The implication is that they are predisposed to repression and evasion.
"Christians go to the same schools that you go to yet you accuse them of being ignorant. They are not ignorant. They just do not accept the things you accept as being true. They choose not to believe some things just as you choose not to believe some things. What we believe is based on what we have experienced and what we have experienced you have not experienced. No one can be expected to throw out their experiences even in the face of your supposed logic. That would be illogical".
Logical argument? Case in point. Comparative ignorance is not simply a matter of school selection. Personal application and even parenting are critical, and there are a great many factors. If Christians have had a personal experience which justifies God, then they have less virtue because they have evidence, so less faith required to believe. Don't try finding logic in this nonsense. This assertion is a repudiation of objectivity. Christians can explain their experience, and they are open to account for that experience if they want to be taken seriously. One need only look at the quality of the Christian thinking to repudiate the philosophy. I might also add that a great many of you are not Christians but nevertheless suffer from a related 'subjective' fallacy, whether some form of moral relativism, scepticism or collectivism, or even liberalism. The only defensible philosophy is objectivism. It is the only one with a valid theory of values. I'll prove the point too. Email me for a debate!
"I am pretty sure small children have been murdered at the hands of atheists,agnostics,and religious folks".
True enough, Christians don't have a monopoly on immorality. Yes...immorality. Christianity is an immoral philosophy. A philosophy is a value system which ought to serve the life of the subject. The idea that people ought to find salvation in renouncing their nature is nonsense. i.e. Faith instead of reason. Faith is acceptance without the opposite of logic. Someone in ancient times was really trying to screw with their subjects to teach them this nonsense.
Other types of subjectivism like socialism, fascism or environmentalism, or animal welfarists are equally immoral as they place others, even animals and the environment before humans. They also support placing some humans above the interests of others. They are a repudiation of objectivity and logic.....just like religion. They are just as bad as religion. Indefensible. If you want to defend subjectivity, simply walk in front of a bus...conflict resolved.
"It is a good thing that all who identify themselves as Christians are not the same then,isn't it? It is a good thing that the religious right is only a wing and not the whole bird,so to speak".
Christians vary in the extent to which they accept religion, and how they accept it. I have had Christians email me, thanking me for helping them resolve their attitudes to religion. They, like me, only needed a logical argument to drop religion like a sack of potatoes. Others tend to have less respect for ideas because they were not raised with it. I was raised with a great deal of respect for science, so it was an easy refutation when the arguments were presented. It was literary a 'day conversion'.
It is sad that libertarianism is supported by anarchists and Christians. They offer no plausible justification for freedom. Why? Anarchism is based on subjectivism. Religion advances altruism. Capitalism is based on an ethics of rational self-interest. They are incompatible. This argument greatly upset my grandfather 2 decades ago.
Andrew Sheldon

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blessed is the honest bishop

Share |
Here is an interesting article by a bishop in the Huffington Post about the churches role in inciting hatred of gays, lesbians and the like. It is a rather candid article coming from the church.
When a religious leader is so progressive, you have to wonder whether he retains any religious conviction. Clearly he retains a great deal of intellect...but only by driving his conflict to a deeper moral fundamental realm. Christians are morally obliged to throw themselves under a bus to protect others from prejudice. He neglects to understand that such collectivism is the source of this prejudice in the first place. He is therefore not a champion of moral rectitude but moral ambivalence. But bless the church for engaging and compromising its integrity yet again. It might well culminate in another church to defend or react to the indefensible. But there is plenty of moral scepticism out there, so I'm sure this bishop will find a market.
I am hoping to drive a 'Greek-inspired' revival of rational self-interest. These Christian apologists however keep 'doggedly' or 'dogmatically' clinging to their 'altruist' beliefs contrary to all the bleating evidence. Oh well....another century before the next intellectual revolution. I think we will have to wait until the next century before we can download a code of ethics into people, such that they will no longer quibble over 'what their bleating minds are for'.
Andrew Sheldon

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gold medal for Australian Catholic Church

Share |
According to the NZ Herald, the Catholic Church has taken upon itself to recognise Mother Mary MacKillop as a saint...Australia’s first. I’m not impressed. The basis for this honour is:
1. She lived a life of integrity
2. She performed miracles
I would suggest she did no such thing. You can’t give without receiving....unless one of her miracles was to conjure up piles of money to perform her feats on this earth. I trust not. She more probably conveyed the biblical message and was able to raise money in order to do what she did. My guess it would not have been to hard to raise money in that time because Australia was having a commodities boom. According to the Christian standard, her work was only possible with the help of a lot of ‘materialistic’ people, who gave surpluses to her so that she did not need one.
Now of course....if not for the generosity or ‘guilted’ altruism of others, who is to know what would become of her? Would she be one of the more desperate flock rather than a leader of people? But saints are not necessarily leaders by the standards indicated.
The other aspect of this honour is that she ‘saved’ lives with some ‘miracles’. Of course there is no way of verifying that she had any such capacity....but the fact that someone who dealt with such desperate people could only find two souls to save suggests to be that she really had no skill at all, and it was merely a distortion, or someone’s overactive imagination. Self-delusion to be sure.
There is of course a great deal of political strategy in this announcement. There can be no better way of promoting Catholicism than by anointing a new saint. Why? Well there are two reasons:
1. Religion looks ever more relevant if you can point to some modern day miracle to support your rationalisation. Of course there are miracles being performed in India every day among the uneducated.
2. Religion needs to sanctify the life of pastors in order to attract more members, and also to reward the best performers. That is simply good business....and we need to remember ‘blind faith’ is a hard sell....yet its the more virtuous...but hell you have to give the pastors something to hope for don’t you. It can’t be all faith can it?
3. A miracle 100 years ago would appear to be 'modern enough' to be in the scientific era, but not so modern that anyone is going to dig up a scandal about Mary....or disprove her mythical miracle. Of course Mother Theresa did not look so positive for this reason. She was considered a control freak by some. Isn't that unsaintly? Certainly not humbling. Well, one flaw. Any miracles?
Andrew Sheldon

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Secular religion gone crazy

Share |
Religion has unfolded into a plethora of different schools over the last 3000 years or so. We might well ask - what is the next step. I can see light at the end of the tunnel. A religion which is open to everyone regardless of what they believe. I believe I have found them on a website called I do like the fact that they do state their values upfront. True to their name, they count an atheist among them. I guess that is consistent with their belief in democracy.
Where I disagree with them is:
1. "In the inherent worth of every person. People are worthy of respect, support, and caring simply because they are human. Unfortunately, we have not reached a consensus on when human life, in the form of an ovum and spermatozoon, becomes a human person. On this matter, our lack of agreement on when personhood begins mirrors that of society at large".
Let me add some clarity. When a person is 'inherently' or intrinsically of value, you admonish the very concept of value, or any notion of a hierarchy of values. Intrinsic values are thus a repudiation of life, of meaning, of science, and of knowledge. People are worthy of respect, support and caring to the extent that they have earned your respect, and you theirs. The reason why you can't reach a consensus on what life is, is because you see the implications of that decision. In any respect, abortion is not an issue related to when life begins, but the proper ethics between lives. You clearly believe that a life ought to be able to impose obligations on other lives. This is evident is abortion and the collectivist state, i.e. welfare, education (i.e. the right to an education is the right to coerce teachers into providing an education).
2. "In working towards a culture that is relatively free of discrimination on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, physical disability, age, body shape, etc".
Well, there would be less discrimination if educators actually recognised its cause. Discrimination is not actually the problem. Discrimination is actually a proper consequence of making value judgements. Price discrimination is something we do every day, and we make all manner of value judgements. Why not racial, religious and sex discrimination? Well, in some context they are appropriate, and mostly they are not, but its a question of reasons and context. There is no dogmatic way to make such decisions. Clearly religious people are more likely to exercise such irrational forms of discrimination because they make a virtue out of 'faith' (or acceptance without reason). Given their humble acknowledgement of their prejudice, you will often hear Christians say, I wish I did not have this prejudice...oh well, I am only human. Original Sin - its the ultimate cope out.
3. "In the value of the human person. We oppose the use of torture and cruel or unusual punishment including the death penalty".
There are good reasons to repudiate the use of capital punishment. Perhaps the most important reasons are that (i) our justice system is underfunded, (ii) Our government persecutes more than it prosecutes given its underlying value system, (iii) the objectivity and critical thinking skills of our judiciary is lacklustre, (iv) Our court system integrates with the police and prison system, so there is a possibility of judicial indifference, bias and unaccountability, and (v) attitudes to evidence, and what constitutes evidence are often arbitrary or non-contextual. I do however think there is a place for capital punishment; but at this point government bureaucrats cannot be trusted with the responsibility or its regulation.
4. "In the importance of democracy within religious, political and other structures".
Not sure what this means, but these institutions are entirely consistent. We have religion which repudiates the mind, and we have a political system which subjugates the rational thoughts of some individuals to the mindless indifference of the majority, who are themselves disempowered, vestiges of their former, mal-developed selves.
5. "In the separation of religion and state; and the freedoms of speech, association, and expression".
Nice idea, but unfortunately it makes little difference. Whilst religion might have little direct influence on politics, on some level it affects the thinking of people, and that culminates in coercive government policy, and the oppression of individuals. Just as religion is based on arbirtrary dogma, so is government policy. The difference is that religious dogma comes from traditional nonsense, whilst government policy derives from collectivist nonsense. Our democratic tradition is based on subjugation of individuals to the majority, which is not a competition in 'quality' arguments, but a 'numbers' game which precludes the possibility of conflict, which prevents the realisation of solutions. This is what we call the 'tyranny of the majority', which is more concerning that the 'tyranny of some minority' because it has the force and legitimacy of the law. Your arbitrary Senate structure offers little in the way of protection, such that many people actually consider it worthwhile to abolish the institution of 'accountability'.
6. "That freedom of speech is one of our most important rights. This includes the freedom to compare the beliefs of faith groups with each other and with other sources of information. It includes the freedom to criticize faith and other groups when they harm others".
What good is freedom of speech when you have no freedom of property. What good does it do me to have the freedom of speech when I have no right to material expression, say the creation of wealth. What is the purpose of ideas, but to seek some material manifestation of it. Knowledge is not an end in itself. But yes, you ought to have the freedom to be stupid, or not. But I should be free of any motivation you might have to impose your values upon me. In which case your arbitrary assertions tend to manifest in wars, which is why religion is ultimately as dangerous as any other subjectivist (i.e. collectivist political) movement.
7. "That the systems of truth that we have studied on the topics of morals, ethics, and religious belief are often considered absolute within various religions and secular belief systems. However, they are obviously relative because they vary greatly from one culture, religion, and time to another".
Wow, this is an intellectual contortion. Truth is absolute, but it is also objective and contextual. It is not a 'dogmatic' absolute divorced of context. As soon as you talk about reconciling dogmas and secular thought is where you descend into relativism. It cannot be done with any credibility. Either you are preaching absolute mumbo-jumbo, or you are talking relativist mumbo-jumbo. Anyway, any mystic idealist is condemned to descend into scepticism by merely 'virtue' of their idiocy and declining morale. Hence the ultimate scepticism.
8. "In the generally positive influence that most religions have had on their followers and on society".
Religion has a terrible historical legacy, but I guess if you accept that humanity was born with 'Original Sin', you could delude yourself into thinking almost anything. Are we better? Does that correlate with the declining levels of religious belief. Empirical evidence suggests that atheists commit fewer crimes than Christians. I don't want to suggest that only Christians are bad people, but that all critical thinkers are going to be educated 'thinkers'. i.e. The ratio of Christian scientists are far lower at 5%, than the 66% ratio of Christians in the broader community.
9. "In the importance of education. We believe that people are not truly educated unless they have studied the world's major religions and ethical systems. They need to learn of both the good and evil impacts that each has had on society".
Studying all the major religions of the world would be great if it was not all you studied, as it might highlight in your mind the fact that they all descended from paganism, and are thus forms of early deception, and how institutionalised religion is really nothing more than plagiarism of early paganism.

If this dialogue made little sense to you, it is because you need to raise your intellectual proficiency. There are a great many books to read....i suggest you get started.
------------------------------------Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Christian Fundamentalist response to 'Koran smoking'

Share |
In my last post I discussed the smoking of the bible and Koran by an Australian. He was of course making a point that people should relax, and not take religion 'so seriously' and their 'sacred books' so symbolically. He argues correctly that they are just books. I have actually torn up a bible on one occasion on public transport to the disdain of a fellow commuter. I was given the bible by a Christian promoting his cause. I wanted to destroy the bible because its antithetical to my values.
In my case the gesture was practical. I wanted to remove one cancerous book from society. I would not be silly enough to buy the book, but it made the Christian virtuous for giving me the book, and by a different moral standard, it made me virtuous to destroy it. He was very angry at me, but made no effort to beat me up. I challenged his arguments with my own, and he calmed down.

So let's look at a video by a Fundamentalist Christian and examine his arguments....
1. He accuses him of doing drugs in the video - but in fact they are clearly not real drugs. Maybe he has tobacco in them, but they are not 'rollies'.
2. Censoring himself - He may not have closed his account, its probable that the University of Queensland required him to close the account, or maybe YouTube closed the account.
3. He could lose his job - Well some things are worth fighting for; but actually its actually improbable he would lose his job. He has actually raised healthy communication with this video. Its actually a celebration of religious tolerance and Australian anti-intellectualism, i.e. 'just get over it'.
4. Same as Terry Jones - Its not like the Terry Jones case at all. Alex is an atheist opposed to fundamentalism, and Terry Jones is a fundamentalist. Could the disparity be any greater?
5. Because of Terry Jones - Alex Stewart's opportunity to take a stand arose because of Terry Jones. True enough, but why is that an issue. Did he plagiarize Terry's content? No. Actually, he came up with his own. The flipside is actually true. This fundamentalist is not just making this presentation, which is contingent upon Alex's action, but he actually recites mostly media material without any references.
But 'hell', don't expect any intellectual honesty or coherent ideas from Christians or Muslims. That is why they believe - because they need some intrinsic concept of value to satisfy their under-developed minds. Defined by fear at such a fundamental level that they know not their true nature. That is the defining aspect of a fundamentalist - Christian or Muslim.
Andrew Sheldon

Smoking the bible and Koran - Alex Stewart

Share |
News is circulating about Australian Alex Stuart, a professor at the University of Queensland, and a self-professed atheist. In the spirit of dissension, in probably inspired by the Florida pastor who proposed to burn copies of the Koran as a protest against the building of a mosque near the World Trade Centre; Alex recorded a YouTube video showing himself smoking a page from the Bible, as well as a page from the Koran. He argued that the Bible tasted better and the Koran made him sick. He also said that those who are upset by his video are taking life way too seriously. Alex has been placed on leave, and may face the loss of his job for his efforts.
Alex's account has been closed, whether by him or YouTube, however clips can be viewed elsewhere. EXCUSE the idiot who posted this. Myself excluded.
We might ask - what exactly has the guy done wrong. A number of points are made:
1. He is not anti-Christianity or anti-Islam, he is against both forms of mysticism
2. He is exercising his right of self-expression. If it is ok for a person to believe in God, then it has to be ok to believe in atheism. He is therefore against all forms of persecution. Despite this, the University of Queensland is at a loss as to what to do about the situation. Just as they want to declare they are tolerant of religions, they need to be tolerant of those who profess none, and rejoice in their lack of a religion.
3. He is actually highlighting a 'possible' institutionalised discrimination of atheism. For this reason, I believe Alex willretain his job. After all he is dealing with an academic institution right? Who values reasoned arguments right? We can only hope.

But what of the practical consequences of these actions. Is a single, or even a group of Australians smoking the bible and Koran going to cause soldiers in the Middle East to be attacked. Well that is an interesting point. I would suggest it is. And here is why.....THEY ARE DIFFERENT. The Middle East is packed full of collectivists. They are not lovers of freedom, so don't expect them to embrace freedoms. You think you can remove persecution in countries where it is so embedded. This fails to appreciate the extent to which collectivism is embedded in the culture. Its not just political, its deeper, so its pointless dealing with it on this level. For this reason, there is a need for Australia and other Western countries to either remove themselves from the Middle East, or hold them accountable for their values.
Do we really need to placate fundamentalists? Do we really think fundamentalists are only people who blow up their children? Christianity has their nutters as you see the correlation?
In the NZ Herald, the president of the Islamic Association of Australia said "Mr Stewart's motives were deeply hurtful to Muslims but his future was for the university to decide". Well, actually if his philosophy was meaningful he ought to praise him for his honesty. He made no judgement about religion. In fact, in essence, he is opposing extremism in the most non-judgemental way. He is saying people need to relax. Did he intend the issue to be divisive? Probably. But maybe he just wanted people to reflect on the fact that 'they are just books'. Even good whiskey is more valuable than any particular bible. He is opposed to symbolism, which he sees as mindless.
Sheik Muhammad Wahid said:
"We condemn it and our feelings have been hurt by this man. ...There is no need for this kind of thing, just to create disunity and disharmony among people living in Australia".
The reality is that he has not created disunity....there was never any unity. He has exposed what was always there, but for the sake of political correctness and fear, few people are willing to deal with. The reality is that this is a test for Muslims and Christians alike. Who will resort to retaliatory acts? Catholics? Protestants? Muslims? Of course some fundamentalists are destined to fail, and because of psychological repression and political correctness around the world, the disdain for Alex's actions will overlook an important issue....Alex has allowed us to see that its ok for people to have different views. He is a role model for peace in Jerusalem. After all his views are not exactly embraced by the majority of Australians. Atheists number (10%) about as many as Muslims (5%) in Australia, and Muslims are closer to Christianity than atheism.
"With respect to books like the Bible and the Koran, whatever, just get over it," he says. "That said, I don't think it's completely appropriate unless it's done for a good purpose, which I've done today".
Alex is not entirely consistent. He says 'get over it'. Get over what? This sounds like repression to me. Anyway, its a side issue. Why does he favour the bible? He suggests its probably the paper. Of course the Islamic clerics are not interested in the contents of the video, merely in its capacity to be used as a matter for scandal. Why are Islamic clerics [and Christians] making more of this than it is ...because they are fundamentalists with a desire to appease their followers, or to incite hatred, so they will have a following. Nothing wrong with that, except they are not using facts.
In my next blog I will talk more about the response by Christian fundamentalists.
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Extreme case of Christian virtue

Share |
Ever wondered what religion is doing to your children or indeed yourself. Consider the following extreme case. I don't want to imply that religion is the only source of abuse, merely one form of collectivism which is undermining human progress.
In a Sussex County court room, New Jersey, the jury heard how a woman made no effort to feed her four starving children, telling them God would provide for them as they grew weaker and hungrier by the day. Estelle Walker, 50, was found guilty of child endangerment. The children, aged 8, 9, 11 and 13, were so malnourished they could hardly speak when discovered by police in 2006. The jury of eight women and four men rejected the unusual defence claim that the New York City woman was not responsible for her actions because of her strict religious beliefs and what her lawyer called an extreme reliance on God. "She was acting to her stringent religious beliefs that God would provide. She lost weight when they lost weight ... She and the children prayed together.
At one point, Walker said to Supreme Court Judge N. Peter Conforti that “God will defend me”. She also told the judge she had been directed by prayer to reject a plea bargain that would have allowed her to go free with time served, or the one year she spent in jail before making bail. She now faces up to 10 years in prison for each of the four counts of second-degree endangerment.
Walker starved the children in a mountain cabin provided by the Manhattan-based Times Square Church, to which she belonged. At the time, she claimed she needed to escape an alcoholic husband. But when Walker refused to leave in May 2006, the church began eviction proceedings and cut off financial support that ranged from $700 to $1,000 per month.
In his closing arguments, Assistant Prosecutor Francis Koch portrayed Walker as a cunning, evil woman who used her religion as an excuse to get a rent-free lake house at the expense of her children’s health. Walker, he said, could have asked for help from friends and family members. Instead, Koch said, "she did nothing".

No one could criticise this woman for a lack of Christian virtue. Sure, there is other dogma which says that you should not test God's faith, but its a game where you stack one dogma up against another, its all enough to drive you insane. Here are some reasons why:
1. Original Sin: You are evil by nature so there is no prospect of doing any good anyway.
2. Dogma has no context so there is no possibility of 'measured virtue'. There is no hierarchy of values to say you are debasing a higher or more fundamental principle for an incidental one. For this reason, people have the potential to engage in unspeakable acts justified by a certain dogma, and at the neglect of another.

Of course some of you are going to argue that non-Christians are also capable of insanity. True enough, which is why I alluded to the other types of non-mystical collectivism which are evident in the world. It is however interesting to explore the relationship between the various mental disorders and values. The reason I think its interesting is because the greater number of 'nutters' seems to be in the Bible belts of countries like America.
Back to the issue of non-mystical collectivist nutters. My mind wonders to Japan. There are people doing some really crazy crimes in Japan. i.e. The kid who cut off his friend's mothers head and put it in her post box. Japan has heaps of such stories. But the country does have a low crime rate. I guess some people are just more accepting of collectivism.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, September 3, 2010

Everyone is wrong - except me

Share |
Religious leaders in Britain have lashed out at Steven Hawking as he sought to debunk a religious explanation for the creation of the universe. My conclusion - they are both wrong. Let us consider their arguments:
Hawking says that given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing" according to an excerpt published in The Times of London.
This is nonsense. Matter does not spontaneously evolve from nothing, it transforms from another form of matter, a matter than is far more dense and thus relatively smaller.
The head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, told the Times that "physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing".
Actually he is right. Physics will not answer that question because science seeks to explain things in terms of causation, and there is no causation. Even non-Christians seem to be mystified by this question, of what caused the universe or matter. The answer is NOTHING. There is no cause...there is no starting point. The universe has always existed. The Big Bang was not the start of the universe, it was merely a fragment in time in which matter underwent massive, but not unprecedented change. I am suggesting that the universe has undergone periods of collapse and re-birth. Gravity provided the momentum for its collapse, and instability (i.e. nuclear fission) provided the basis for its ultimate expansion.
"Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence".
True again. Religion is not about providing rationalisations for reconciling facts and faith. In truth religion and science are incompatible. Science seeks to develop a rational framework for understanding the universe, whilst religious wants people to accept a certain dogma on faith, which involves acceptance despite or without reference to facts. Any resolution offered by science could only diminish your faith, and therefore your virtue.
An intelligent god? Well that is just the unqualified dogma.
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said: "Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation. The Bible simply isn't interested in how the Universe came into being".
This is not strictly correct. Science is about explanation. That much is true, but religion is not about interpreting, as that would involve reference to facts, arguments as well as analysis. Religion is about dogmatic assertion. We must understand that the 'power' or persistence of religion does not derive from its compelling arguments, it arises from people's insecurity, that they would find greater value in intrinsic values rather than objective values, which convey meaning, understanding and the need to earn them. It is those aspects of an objective universe which Christians want to renounce. They want religion not simply as a moral system. Its more fundamental than that. Their need for religion can arise at a more fundamental metaphysical to epistemological level.
"Hawking's god is a god-of-the-gaps used to plug present gaps in our scientific knowledge. "Science provides us with a wonderful narrative as to how [existence] may happen, but theology addresses the meaning of the narrative," he added.
There will always be gaps in science, whether fundamental or incidental. The contradiction that science makes to our life is incoherent because scientific inquiry in marred by poor values, of which religion is part of the toxic pool of diminished cognitive capacity. Anyone with a critical thought capacity (like myself) can find the flaws in religion and science (with may appear like a religion sometimes). We ought to recognise that 'idiot science' is a legacy of the thinking imparted by a religious based private school education, not to mention the public 'collectivist' school system, which ultimately has the same origins....thousands of years of religious self-loathing. The skepticism implied in the quote above is a testament to that.
There are of course those religious defenders who would see God as a passive 'designer' who, having made the universe sits back and derisively laughs at the idiots he created.
Fraser Watts, an Anglican priest and Cambridge expert in the history of science asserts:
"A creator God provides a reasonable and credible explanation of why there is a universe, and ... it is somewhat more likely that there is a God than that there is not".
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, July 26, 2010

Complaint against BSkyB (Psychic Kids)

Share |
This item is not so much an issue of religion, but a lack of disclosure or accountability with respect to the promotion or depiction of mysticism in the media.
I take the development of knowledge seriously. I consider integrity very important. For this reason, before I acknowledge or accept certain knowledge as fact, I consider the context in which the knowledge is presented. Everything is knowledge, though the veracity, plausibility or accuracy of that information is a matter for interpretation. This type of vigilance underpins not simply my integrity, but also the clarity of my cognition. The fact that I am a far superior thinker to most people is a testiment to this discipline, whether it depends on the filtering of information by critical thinking, definition of terms, or dedication to the reconciliation or integration of all knowledge, as opposed to repressing or compartmentalising information, which essentially integrates as a universal experience.

For this reason, I made a complaint to about the basis of their 'Psychic Kids' series. In this program they depict kids having psychic experiences. The contents of the program appear factual. i.e. A psychologist and a 'ghost buster' type guy takes two kids into a 'haunted house'. These kids convey fear, and even simulate 'mystic phenomena'. What am I to make of these events?
I have never experienced anything mystical which I could not explain. i.e. Deja vu and a 'mystic-like' subconscious experience which I attribute to alcohol and associated dehydration. These things I can explain, and I know the context in which they occurred, so I can always adjust my thinking.
My complaint about this program is that it is depicted as fact, but the whole event could be 'staged' as fact, but in truth it is just someone's imagination. This strikes me as the 'subjectification' of science, and it is just one more step in the degeneration of society. i.e. The science of climate change has been turned into a popularity contest. To my mind the only scientists who matter are the critical thinkers....the rest are politicians with a value judgement to 'grind'. There is nothing wrong with scientists or anyone having an opinion, but we do need to know some context to the assertion, and knowing whether content is fact, and the veracity of those factual assertions is part of the required disclosure. In this context, it is not scientific veracity I am seeking, but some legal declaration that the producer experienced these phenomena, so I can sue him if later evidence proves he lied or deceived.
I contacted the 'Psychic Kids' acquisitions manager at, Jinal Patel, and he tells me it is factual content. I did ask him if the production house is required to sign a contract or statutory declaration attesting to the 'factuality' of the content, but he did not respond. Clearly I am suspicious of mystic claims, principally because commercial enterprises care little about integrity....but I hope to raise their standards and yours. This is the type of regulation I like...that which clarifies rather than distorts markets :)
For this reason, I made a complaint to the UK regulator for the communications industry. There is a section for Video-On-Demand at their website, or you can email:
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How do we cure religion?

Share |
Otherwise stated - What can an atheist do to discourage or otherwise subdue the 'Christian beast'? Firstly it is not about God. Its about what God embodies. Have you recognised how Christians who are abused or taken advantage by one church, go on to become victims or benefactors of another. If Christians are to stop preaching or embracing religion, they ultimately need to do more than discover reason, because some Christians are rationalising that religion is a justifiable philosophy.
I must however state that young people are inclined to have a rationalised Christian perspective purely because they are young and have yet to challenge the parent, school or social Christian values. This is particularly likely in these situations where you are surrounded by religion. i.e. Consider the Philippines or the Middle East where religion is pervasive....almost suffocating.
By so recognising this point, they need to recognise that values are conditional, as opposed to intrinsic or dogmatic. Conditional because they are accepted or repudiated for a reason. Which means that there is the possibility of failure or rejection. If you repudiate the meaningful standard of value, and argue that you are great because you are 'with god', then such dogmatism gives a person the self-delusion of efficacy, without actually possessing any. It might boost your confidence, but its not going to help.
The fact that they repudiate this notion is a fear-response. The question is why? The reason is - they have been physically or mentally abused, or have otherwise had their intellectual development arrested by dogmatism. A poorly developed cognitive capacity is going to undermine one's self-esteem. In which case, thinking is an act which provides no validation.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fear-fighting Christians

Share |
when I reflect on the success and longevity of religion I would attribute it to several factors:
1. Its ability to reinvent itself
2. Its ability to undermine the self worth of believers
3. Its ability to spread fear and intellectual dependency

My neighbour and I were talking about the Christians that come around the neighbourhood each month. I guess I see about 6 of them each year. Most come in pairs, some come with their children. My neighbour is a Catholic. He suggested I don't like how they are always trying to get money from people. Well proof enough that there is no God perhaps; but one must concede that they do need money to survive, and I dare say the rich dislike parasitism as much as maligned community members who have lost confidence in religious institutions. His point however was that 'They mean well'. Being a Catholic, he looked at me like he saw a ghost. Fortunately he has long since repressed my atheism, so he is nice to me again. There was about a month when he avoided me.
The reason I suggest that Christians are not well-meaning is because people only look at Christians in a superficial sense. Christians of course vary in their degrees of moral rectitude. Most people would consider their moral righteousness in terms of their 'giving spirit', or their 'commitment to God'. I simply look at the extent to which I can have a reasonable conversation with them. The reason for taking this approach is because:
1. Money given was money taken from elsewhere. I'm not suggesting Christians don't earn money, but I do suggest those that give in the name of altruism are fakers seeking moral superiority. Anyone needing to peddle such influence usually has a guilty conscientious.
2. A person who is not reasonable is open to any action. A reasonable person can still be deceitful, but they have to rationalise, and this places them in a position in conflict.

Now I must confess that I am rather provocative with Christians because I now have the freedom of not being employed by such people. On the surface they are rather friendly and non-judgemental. But when placed in a position of conflict I have found that they tend to lose control. The problem is of course their lack of mental efficacy. The reason they lack mental efficacy is because from an early age their minds have been sabotaged. Until non-Christians who are simply the product of a bad education system, they have grown up with an anti-life (i.e. anti-reason) philosophy. That does not stop them trying to rationalise it.

This week I joined a local philosophy group. Unsurprisingly these people are all over 65yo Christians. Why people bother to take an interest in philosophy just prior to dying I will never understand. I learnt it from age 19yo, and if I knew its importance I would have studied it from 15yo. Mind you, in a world of contradictions, perhaps I needed more life experience before I could accept such 'provocative ideas'. Regardless over 65yo is too late.

The next problem is that they are reading a Christians interpretation or rationalisation of philosophy. They are reading 'Think' by Simon Blackburn. The problem with this book is that it is a rationalised interpretation of philosophy. It has intelligibly pieces of other philosophers like Schopenhauer. The implication is that Christians are not challenging themselves. They are getting the same sanitised version of the truth that they get at church. There can be utterly no respect for facts or reality if:
1. You do not challenge yourself by reading other material (giving you greater coherency or integrity)
2. Seek to resolve practical problems (giving you grounding)

Another example. My parents have never in the last 20 years of knowing me sought to understand my values. I have challenged them on a great many issues, and yet they are not honest enough to engage in a reasonable manner. It is the psychology of Christians. You might ask why I am lampooning Christians if they are not terribly Christian? The reason is that they come from Christian households and they went to Christian schools with the same destructive impact on their 'young minds', which was never corrected by having children. By the age of 10y0, when children start to question their parents, such parents undermine their children rather than embrace the facts of reality. Of course many children cannot espouse coherent philosophy. But don't under-estimate a child's capacity to identify a contradiction in their parents. Parents in the formative years will laugh off the 'honesty' of their kids. e.g. Daddy, why is mommies skin so wrinkled. When a child retorts to a parent, Christian or otherwise, and they don't have an efficacious mind, they are inclined to attack the child rather than deal with their own issues. The implication of this is:
1. The child is denied validation
2. The child is attacked or abused physically or mentally
This is why social problems persist in society; because people do not have sufficient respect for the facts of reality. They would prefer to undermine those who provoke or challenge us to think rather than actually solving personal problems. It ought however to be apparent that teaching faith (i.e. The opposite of reason, accepting without evidence) is going to sabotage a person's mind.
Why do they do it? Simply because they cannot confront their own shortcomings? People will say that their fear makes them selfish. But its not in your self-interest to sabotage your mind or anyone else's. This is why Christianity has been so insidious. It spreads the myth that values are subjective; so people self-indulgently don't seek to reconcile their values with facts. i.e. Objectivity. People only take an interest in a delinquent child from the age they start to commit crimes. The problem of course is that its much harder to solve problems at this level.
So you might ask yourself - how do you stop Christians rationalising that they are good people. Well, you withdraw your moral sanctioning of them. They cease to be 'well-intended' and you start treating them as intellectual cowards who would rather sabotage their minds, and their childrens, rather than confront (and resolve) the challenges in their life. The greater 'sin' is allowing another generation of people to be injured by religion. The other great travesty is the moral ambivalence that 'non-Christians' have, such that they were raised in Christian households unable to develop a coherent sense of values. They are insecure, but they know enough to know that there is something wrong with 'institutionalised religion'. Many would conclude that the problem is the people. i.e. Humans are evil by nature. But no one questions the underlying philosophical premises shaping these 'lost souls'. They were of course lost before they discovered religion. Religion appeals to vulnerable souls, but it does not help them. It gives comfort by deluding them into thinking that love or values are not rational, or conditional. They live on a succession of reduced expectations and rationalisations.
Those of you who are inclined to argue with Christians to save their souls, you are wasting your time if they are espousing baseless assertions. There is no way a rational argument will convert them. If you recognise that they are responding with intelligible arguments, then you have a chance. But bear in mind that they are still challenged by their social identity with the church. It might not be as strong as the entrenched 'cultural identity' of a cult, however it is nevertheless the basis of their security system. You would have to offer a comprehensive repudiation of religion, as I have attempted to do in these blog entries.
My thanks to those who give me feedback. Glad to know I am influencing people. I'm particularly pleased if people tell me why that appreciate the arguments I make, or what difference it has made to their thinking. The reason being I want to know people are 'really' getting it, and not rationalising.
When I was young I was so passionate about learning. I retain that attitude today. There is no fear of learning from any source. Science was no doubt a key, as it developed a respect for objective reality. If we can teach people to give primacy to facts, to have confidence in their cognitive ability, so they need not fear the world, then society will be a far better place.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, April 5, 2010

Is religion selfish?

Share |
The answer to that question is supposedly – ‘morally yes, but practically no’ when a person uses religion in order to attain some benefit. The problem with this understanding is that it lacks a theory of values. Consider the notion of selfishness – defined as a primary concern with one’s self interest, which is what? This is where most people stop thinking. But we must ask – What constitutes our self interest? Is rape in our interests? And we have to renounce rape because its against the law right? (selfless conception). Or is there some objective standard to say that rape is bad. This objective or ‘enlightened’ self interest concept invariably leads one to conclude that self interest is good if one has objective interests or values. i.e. It matters neither whether you profess to do something for others (i.e. non-self) or oneself, the issue is why you do it. Does the value have legitimacy. So you ask – what is the basis for prescribing the basis of any value – objective or subjective. I would suggest that it is your nature as a human being.
It is easy to identify the moral validity and illegitimacy of some values because their actors are so pathetic that their actions could only be construed as good or bad. i.e. We are not going to bad-mouth Warren Buffett for working hard, nor for giving billions to a non-profit foundation. The flipside is that we would regard the deception or abuse of people as repugnant because its universal application could only result in a degeneration in social values. But what of moral greyness?
What of a productive person who compromises his values in order to attain a big order? What of capable person who accepts a idiot guy because she fears never meeting another guy? Is this moral greyness? Is it simply a bad choice?
Andrew Sheldon

Does religion convey good values?

Share |
What is the purpose of a relationship with God? The idea that you need a relationship with a person before you are able to connect with a being strikes me as asymmetrical. We associate a relationship with mutual interaction, yet a relationship with god is polar. You may as well be talking to yourself; and more importantly, there is good reason to think that you are talking to yourself. I do not dismiss that some Christians are even able to talk themselves into such a ‘frenzy’ that they can imagine gods.
Having established a ‘loving relationship’ with god, what is the purpose of the relationship? I guess it is a shared love for others. Why does God need us to do that? Why doesn’t God simply have the same relationship with them as he has with us.
It seems a great many people only want a relationship with God for material things. It might be argued that herein lies the problem. But I think if these people could have a good job, they would be more than happy to earn the money to get those material things. Maybe God could give them the courage and conviction so they could actually get those things if we concede the argument that the role of God is to give us things; that is the things which are not material. It makes one think; if the role of god is not to give us things, what is the point of having a relationship with him, unless we are a useless hobo.
Even if we admit that God has the capacity to give us things; so he has the capacity to take them away. How can we argue that we either deserve to receive things, or deserved to have things taken away from us? Does god intervene in our life to do justice or charity? At the end of the day, is it not simply us getting things, whether by earning them, stealing them or being given then. At the end of the day, is it not good for our sense of pride to do these things for ourselves.
Andrew Sheldon

Religious fraud

Share |
There are religions around the world – such as the Catholic Church (in various countries), various mystic groups in India and sects in various countries which solicit money from people on the basis of fear, guilt or social pressure. These efforts involve subjecting people to public mocking or shame by compelling them to give money in private. Surely it would be more considerate and humble to actually give money in private, if only for the sake of the poor. Even for the rich. The idea of giving money in public can only lead to vulgar displays of wealth, for a religion which surely has monetary resources in abundance. Anything less simply looks like ‘cold hearted’ business. Are religion clergy the saints they are depicted as, or are they the worst form of manipulators?
What of paying penance to atone for your sins. Is that a legitimate practice? Why is it bad for people to be concerned by material wealth, and yet it seems to be the sole consideration for moral virtue in churches around the world. I wish I could say it is mastery of manipulation; but simply it is mastery over fools. We might well hear from religious leaders who condemn casinos for taking money from people who can ill-afford to lose it, and yet are the churches not going the same. Why would you seek a relationship with god if you did not need some material reciprocity, and would you not be peeved if you needed food, but only got advice from a clergy? The vice being: You have not got enough faith; keep searching, and it will come to you. You will finally meet someone who is as guilty as you. That is virtue? Well I do not doubt that there are other ‘true believers’ who would actually concede some material benefit so that these people may benefit. I have no doubt that reaching the bottom can only result in people seeing nothing but ‘blue sky’ ahead; most particularly in a welfare state where is really never was so bad, and where an adjustment of personal expectations can give one a lot of relief which one might interpret as a ‘gift from god’. Or is it simply we stopped wanting the intangibles?
Andrew Sheldon

How do atheists find a purpose in their lives

Share |
Another common statement by Christians when they find out that you are an atheist is….’how do you find meaning in life’. What is there to live for if you are going to die in 50-60 years. This of course suggests that there is an after-life.
I personally find value in life from being good at a skill and exercising my mind. I think a lot of people do the same, whether they identify it as a sense of identity, or simply something they have to do to live their lives. I don’t particularly care a great deal about money, but I love the idea of investing in ideas which pay off, developing or discovering knowledge, and the companionship of people who have similar values…which is pretty rare, so instead I spread a lot of time investing in knowledge so that I can contribute to a better world, where my values have more likelihood of being held. I am thus fighting a pitiful education system, a collectivist government and a good handful of Christians. But it’s all fun if you are engaging your mind in purposeful, constructive, efficacious action. I can take pride in a hard day’s work, and at the end of the day its building something great, so at the end of my career I will be able to look back and say at any point that “I did that”. …then die with a smile on my face. Anyway, I won’t be complaining when I’m dead, and I’m not going to waste time worrying about it now.
Andrew Sheldon

The problem for atheists

Share |
I am an atheists and in many respects life is good. I can’t say it is perfect, but I could not be happier. There is no place in my life for God, but I am very happy. A year ago I was not so happy. There was no place in my life for God then either. So there seems no positive correlation at all. Now is it simply about being happy? Does having a relationship with God impart any greater sense of happiness? I think not. In fact a great many of the Christians I encounter seem to be scared of their own shadows. They seem to have little in the way of mental efficacy. The more logical ones tend to be more defensive and evasive. In the case of my ex-boss, who was also a minister of his church, I would suggest he was terribly conflicted.
The more engaging ones simply don’t want to explore their minds. Its not that they are ‘closed minded’, its as if they have turned it off. Any argument results in a counter-assertion which is simply some dogmatic assertion they have learned at church. It is interesting to ask such people why they are happy. Don’t expect their happiness to relate to any meaningful values. They can no doubt celebrate the incidental….I want to change the world. This is in fact the basis of my happiness…the expectation that I can make a positive impact on the world, by helping people to become better parents, helping people to make money, helping people to develop good character values, etc. It really has nothing to do with helping people. It has more to do with being good at something. I am a consummate thinker developing new knowledge. I want to share these ideas so that I can achieve some practical success as the discovery process is so intangible….so I want to make it real. Poor fellows those Christians. I have tangible reasons to have confidence that I will achieve my goals, but they have to accept God’s world on faith. Faith is incidentally the acceptance of some assertion without evidence…not a good thing and contrary to your whole knowledge system.
Anyway, what makes me happy is the fact that I love my writing/work. I can't wait to get up in the morning and do my exercise, and start writing. If I have any hang up, its my impatience to get my ideas into books. The editing is a drag, though also a necessary process in developing ideas and organising them. Equally as important I finally have a lovely partner in my life, I no longer work for unethical people in the finance industry. Mostly I am excited about the impact of my future books. I have so many ideas....god is the last thing on my why spoil it. Ok, well its the last thing now.... :)
It is therefore understandable that I might think religion is a pack of crap. I can have a satisfying and rewarding life without it; I have intellectual arguments which dispel any need for it. The question then becomes - would I recommend it to people in difficulty? Well, not even if a gun was pointed at me. The reason is clear. Faith is not going to help you achieve; you don't develop a sense of efficacy by renouncing your mind; you don't develop your cognitive skills by memorising Christian verse. Basically you will only find another really insecure person at church. Hardly the type of person you want as a life partner....notwithstanding that there are morally 'grey' Christians with some redeeming Christians. Personally I take this as a superficial distinction. I don't spend much time around Christians. The only ones around me I have converted. It is a slow process, and who has the time.
Andrew Sheldon

Working with Christian bosses

Share |
My bosses were Christians – one more pragmatic one I could more easily get along with. The other was a prick of a person. In his defense he appeared to struggle with certain moral values. He was smart in a way, but really he was very conflicted. I used to present him with challenges…I used to frustrate the hell out of him. I was not very politically correct. I used to write reports where I would call Korea a collectivist or statist economy. He did not like this. I think the Koreans are proud of this, but he had a problem with it. He even went to the point of arguing ‘statist’ is not even a world….so I showed him the word in the Macquarie or Collins Dictionary. Haha.
This was a very difficult man to deal with. He made me particularly uncomfortable because I loved my job. He always had a stressed, conflicted look on his face, as if he was going to explode. I had very different philosophical values to him, so I was always worried about saying something wrong. This was my first job, and I loved it. I also recall meeting his children….poor things looked like all self esteem had been beaten out of them. The oldest was probably fretting from the expression of his disproving dad…..No, the meek are not going to inherit the earth. This kid was the embodiment of religious virtue…no ego left in him….I’d say he is probably doing drugs today…repressing any notion that he was a failure in his dad’s mind.
Andrew Sheldon

Christianity is the origin of capitalism

Share |
There is a belief among some Christians that religion actually gave rise to Christianity. This idea was suggested to me in my early 20s. He must have studied a different period to me because I had always associated religion with the political and religious oppression of the Dark Ages.
Years later I would learn more about the period in history which placed this notion in his mind. It was the Calvinists of Switzerland, and he probably took some comfort from Thomas Aquinas who also had some notional support for freedom from tyranny. Adam Smith was a Christian too, and perhaps John Locke.
It is safe to say that anyone in this period is going to espouse to be a Christian, even if they are not, precisely because these periods were periods of oppression. We even have this legacy today…why is it that no one talks about religion and politics. Ok, you won’t be executed, but in those days people were, so they were more cautious. Today you are merely marginalized or alienated.
The point is that Christianity was incidental to the development of religion. Certainly there was the concept of ‘divine rights’ but most of these philosophers did not argue them on the basis of divinity, but rather on the basis of logic, which is the counter-point of faith and mystic revelation. The implication is that philosophers did not seemingly have much integrity, and not much scope for honesty about their religious beliefs. To be fair, the clergics and followers would have pulled them apart if they preached anything which contradicted the church. Look what happened to Galileo.
Andrew Sheldon

The moral code of atheists

Share |
One of the reasons that Christians distrust atheists is that they think we have no moral code. They think this because we repudiate God. God for them is a source of accountability or moral guidance. In fact God or religion is not even a direct. It’s a renouncement. It tells you the thinks you can’t do, and they are always things for non-self, another negative. For God, for the church, for others….never you. Why can’t it say that you should live a life according to reason, establish a comfortable life, and then invest in the people around you so you can feel as if you have saved the world? That would be an entirely concrete guide, but at least it would not be around renouncement.
The problem with renouncement is that it establishes no positive values. Consider this…a Christian might suggest…if you don’t believe in God, what is to stop you going out and raping any child. The implication of such conversations is that the only form of accountability is mystical, and more problematic, that these ‘religious folk’ obviously think it is morally acceptable to abuse kids. Should is surprise us that many clergy have been caught with their underwear on the wrong side of their robes.
What religious folk fail to realize is that people can have moral values grounded in some understanding of human nature, be it implicit or explicit, and that these values are rewarded by practical consequences. Of course most of our parents model fairly decent values, even despite the fact that they are confused by religion. We nevertheless mostly reject the nonsense, i.e. Any notion that we should not judge others, ‘turn the other cheek’, etc. It amazes me how churches seem to have lost all relevance to people’s lives. It’s as if the church stays in the 15th century because if it dared to discuss a contemporary problem it would only marginalize a group of people, or reveal its inadequacies. Nope, the church properly should remain in the 15th century…..the Dark Ages…the time when religion reached its zenith. People like it in this period because they can pretend to be a good Christian, and using psychological trickery they can easily compartmentalize their current lives from any possibility of Christian dogma. Any hint of a contradiction can readily be repressed…no problem.
So Christians take note….when you think you cannot have moral values without a god, you are exposing the fact that you really have no moral guidance. Whenever you meet a Christian who is professing to do you a favour…expect some seriously deceitful act to follow. I am not ruling out generosity, but generous people don’t seek a stage before they offer. They just do it. Mind you…there are people who give in the expectation of receiving. This is the beauty of trade….value for value or voluntary exchange….nothing is fairer.
Andrew Sheldon

Open invitation to Christians for a debate

Share |
I would welcome the opportunity for God, an aspiring Christian or theologian to put forward arguments which would justify a belief in God. I suggest a dialogue over Gtalk so that each party has a complete record of the conversation. I will place the discussion on this website, and they can do the same on their website. My intent is to show that their values are based on baseless dogmatic assertion. Please email any time to arrange such an debate.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, March 19, 2010

Creation wisdom - the complex hypothesis (part 2)

Share |
The Australian mallee fowl is a remarkable bird, but it is only one of many different creatures, and contrary to this Christians assertion, there are good reasons for accepting Evolution. Firstly, one species is not going to prove or disprove Evolution, and there are species with far more research than this Megapode. Regardless, the evidence ‘against’ Evolution solely based on this Christian’s assertion is not in itself CAUSE for believing in Creation. He does not offer any explanation for the Creation argument. Why does he even try? God demands faith not justification. Why did he have to research about the mallee fowl, when he should have simply accepted Creationism as a leap of faith.
Mallee fowl are certainly an oddity; building "nests" or mounds comprising soil, twigs, leaves, sand and organic matter. The mounds can grow to 17metres in diameter and several metres in height. All of these fowl build mounds for the females to lay up to 35 eggs per season. The purpose of the mounds is to provide safety for the eggs from predators, whether dingoes, snakes or any of the other predators which occupied Australia thousands to millions of years earlier.
The various species of megapod span from Australia to the Philippines. This covers climates contrasting from the hot, arid deserts of central Australia to the wet, rainforests of Indonesia. The author marvels at the sameness of the species despite the different conditions, and yet the factors are essentially the same. The mound size is likely the same because the birds are the same size, or their feet are the same.
The fowl uses its large feet to flick dirt or sand into or out of the centre of the mound in order to control the temperature of the eggs buried within. The author asks:
Which came first, incidentally, the big feet, or the big mounds?
The answer is – look at the historical ‘fossil’ record. The author conveniently ignores the fossil record. This species of fowl has existed for millions of years, and its far larger relatives have since died out. They likely died out because of the drying out of the climate, which made food scarce. Such processes happen slowly, so it’s apparent that climatic change favoured smaller animals with smaller appetites in a drier climate.
A researcher of megapodes remarks:
I find it remarkable that a bird is able to estimate the amount of organic matter it must add to a heap of soil so that the heat generated by fermentation is just enough to bridge the gap between the soil temperature and the temperature necessary for incubation.
This is not the thinking of a mallee fowl. This is the thinking of a human with a human researcher. For the fowl, it’s likely they have sensors in their beak or feet to estimate the temperature. Extra-sensory capacities in animals are commonplace. There are no ‘complex formulas’. Having conjured up some ‘complexity’ the author asks “Could they [the megapodes] have evolved all this through blind natural selection?”. The answer is yes, though it’s not so miraculous if you consider that the need to gauge temperature was probably always there, even if temperatures have changed. No doubt the success of the methodology has proved itself over the changes in climate.

The Australian mallee fowl of arid inland Australia has a more difficult task because in dry climates there is less moisture for leaf little to decompose. For this reason, the mallee fowl has to rely on the sun for heat rather than the heat released from decomposing plant matter. Stabilising temperatures in these climatic extremes sounds impressive, yet whilst outback Australia is hot, it is also very dry, so any shade from cloud or leaf litter substantially reduces the heat. Below the surface it is surprisingly cool. This is why Australia’s arid regions are rich in life. The surface temperature might range from 20-110ºF, however the subsoil temperature is far more consistent.

The author repudiates the evolutionist arguments for the development of the mallee fowl. The reality of species research is that such issues often are speculative, as there are millions of species, and the fossil record is not complete or fully understood for each species. Rest assured recent developments with the Genome Project will advance evolution a great deal, allowing us to make the hereditary path of each species.
It seems probable that the mallee fowl came to incubate its eggs to conceal the eggs from predatory animals. This explains why the fowl disperses its eggs among several mounds. It is its insurance policy. He simply stays in range of all the mounds to adjust their temperature as conditions demand.
The fowl starts building the mounds in May, and spends winter searching for leaf litter, before piling (i.e. flicking) on soil in August. The wetter winter can allow leaf litter to remain moist under the shade of added soil. The temperature in the mound begins to rise until mid-September when the female lays her first eggs. The eggs will hatch in early November, before the extreme heat of summer. During the entire incubation period, the male must regulate the temperature. The fowl keeps the temperature between 90-95ºF by altering the amount and type of mound cover. Heat is produced both by decomposition and the sun. If the eggs overheat, the mallee fowl simply piles more soil on the mound to insulates the eggs from the sun's heat. If the mound cools too much, the fowl can scatter the soil in the cool early morning air, only to collect it after the sun has reheated it. In arid regions, mostly the sun is shining. Any moisture helps to retain heat in the mound.

Mr. H. J. Frith, an expert on the mallee fowl, said:
"We thought it possible that all this temperature - control work could be merely part of a fixed behaviour pattern evolved by natural selection to suit the seasons".
The author equates this canny behaviour with ‘intelligence’, which it simply is not. It is simply an example of an animal correlating learning behaviour over thousands of years. It is probably that early eggs did not require heating (in a tropical climate), and were simply buried for protection from shelter as the parents searched for food during droughts. During climate extremes they likely made a correlation between dead eggs and colder weather. When climate change occurred, they simply adapted their behaviour to keep the eggs cool, and in the process developed a simply means of keeping the egg temperature stable.
The implication is that no GREAT INTELLIGENT GOD is required to explain the origin of fowls; just a critical and educated individual. Christians and other mystics have always relied on the ignorance and fear to spread their nonsense. This is no exception. The other tool of manipulation for various churches and cults is of course the practice of ‘love bombing’. Anyone who lacks confidence in their judgement, has been abused, neglected, i.e. denied validation, is vulnerable to a torrent of religious recruitment. Many get sucked in, and used as pawns for recruitment drives if not direct contributions.

The author asks “Why, if evolution is a fact, do birds of any given species build identical nests? And, if one type of nest supposedly evolved in-to another, why do we have such extreme diversity among different species?”
The answer is that only species which need to change have to change. If no advantage is rendered, no variant has a preference. Mounds are the same because the fowls critical features are the same. Also diurnal temperature variations in tropical climates is less extreme because of higher humidity; whilst the dry temperate climates render more extreme temperatures less harsh in the shade or underground.
The author asks:
“If one group of birds can survive with a "primitive" nest, why take the trouble to evolve into another kind? It doesn't make any sense”. doesn’t make sense but Christian assertion, which does not make sense, should be accepted without question. The reality is, if you lack knowledge, nothing makes sense. It’s amazing how many senseless topics become meaningful if you learn more material, adopt a critical mind and repudiate any unintelligible concepts like religion.
The question of whether fowls learn, are trained or have instincts is really a separate question from evolution, so it will be addressed elsewhere. How do animals attain the genes to adapt to new environments, like the drying out of the climate? According to the theory of natural selection, they slowly change in response to small genetic variations which give a certain variant natural advantages which are reinforced through reproduction if they are indeed critical to the survival of the species. The author highlights several theories for evolution; “some of them quite contradictory” apparently. In fact there is no need for any of them to be compatible as they are discrete ideas. These theories are:
1. The "Highly Specialized" Theory draws attention to the "highly specialized" habit of the mallee fowl, arguing that it is a legacy of the birds' reptilian ancestors. The author refuses to accept this. No explanation is given. The more explanation is that “ancestors of the present-day megapodes were ground-nesting birds that developed the habit of covering their eggs with sand or leaves when leaving the nest, as a protection against predators. Several present-day birds, in fact, do this ...” while the Australian climate and flora are gradually changing over thousands of years. The author is sceptical, but offers no contradictory evidence or justification for his pet theory – Creationism; which of course contradicts the fossil record.
2. The "Degenerate Bird" Theory proposed by George A. Clark, an ornithologist at Yale University, asserts that the fowl reverted to a more degenerate reptilian habits, much like the whales and porpoises, which are mammals, returned to the habits of their fish ancestors”. This theory may in fact arise simply because of an incomplete fossil record so should be discounted somewhat.
3. The "Primitive Bird" Theory proposes that modern birds might display some residual habits of the ancient birds from which they evolved, thus providing a trace of their ancestral lineage. We might therefore expect modern birds to retain some behaviours of ancient birds because their practical benefit has been retained over evolutionary time. Allen (1925) suggested that the megapodes might therefore be linked to the alligator on such a basis.

The author implies that these theories are contradictory, and ‘confusing’. But in fact they are entirely realistic and compatible. They conflict only with the theory of Creationism, which conflicts with all human knowledge since ‘faith’ is acceptance of assertions without evidence. Christianity requires its believers to renounce their minds, and to trust in cunning manipulators who want their money. Christianity rests on the willingness of a person to renounce their mind. Ask yourself why facts are scarier than some arbitrary assertions. Because these churches promise ‘unconditional love’. This is why people are ultimately drawn to it. It’s not a better argument. Its a philosophical need to evade facts because they result in value judgements the ‘believer’ cannot accept. There is no convincing them unless they can confront their psychological flaw. That is not to say that all are flawed. If they are young and have not yet challenged Christian arguments, they might well grow out of their ambivalence.
The author goes on to say that evolution is only a theory, or ‘speculation’. The only reason evolution is a theory is because humanity has no direct ability to observe it in action. We can model the concept by grafting plant species and alter the genetic code to achieve new species, but we cannot directly prove evolution. But actually that is no obstacle because we have an immense body of indirect evidence which integrates into knowledge.
The author states: “Attempts to explain design without a Designer, creation without a Creator, intelligence without an Intelligent Being bestowing that intelligence. It can't be done! The notion that the earth requires a designer simply displaces the burden of proof. Firstly it presupposes a ‘starting point’ for the universe, and hence that a designer was required. As previously indicated, isn’t it less miraculous when things actually act according to their nature? If we were the centre of God’s plan, why would he wait 20 billion years for universe to mature after the Big Bang? Why not just conjure up a world where the illogical is possible? That would be a miracle; not cause and effect.
The author even challenges ‘God’s work’. “Why evolve such a largely difficult method? Why lay 35 eggs in different places at different times?” Firstly I’m glad he asked the question. But I am equally concerned that he never sought to answer it. Is his plot self-delusion or manipulation? I did finally get my answer when I went looking for the ‘Plain Truth’ Magazine. Here are the answers:
1. Truth is not asymmetrical – if you are prepared to challenge science, also be prepared to challenge the alternative hypothesis – which is God, using the same scientific vigour.
2. Difficult habits – It does seem unfathomable for a bird to invest so much energy to keep the nest warm, and attend to so many nests, but consider the environmental conditions and the historical context. The bird is vulnerable to attack from predators, so the bird manages as many nets as he can. I would suggest the animal derives a sense of efficacy by doing this. Only a single nest can be attacked, and it one is threatened he can still attend to the others. The nests are far enough apart to elude the predator, but not so far that the fowl cannot reasonably attend to them. Fortunately most predators will hunt during the ‘cool’ of the day. Remember that there are two ‘parent’ fowls.
3. Universal context – consider the context in which this author is arguing the point. He focuses on an animal which is special or controversial in order to cast doubt over all science. That is what you might call an ‘asymmetrical perspective’ whether its nature is delusion or deceit.

It is amazing how solutions come to mind if you take pride in solving questions, as raising them. This is the nature of such asymmetrical thinking. So what came first? His mental ambivalence or his scepticism. I would suggest normally they ‘evolved’ together, though this document is written by a person who should have known better, so I have another more tragic explanation.
Andrew Sheldon

Creationism wisdom - will it never die (part 1)

Share |
Here is some creationist nonsense camouflaged as science. It raises some interesting points though so I thought it was worth applying some critical thinking to the content. This material was produced by the Worldwide Church of God – they had a publication called ‘The Plain Truth’. Often you find with these exotic churches that they use science as a leverage to find new recruits. Basically its a case of 90% upfront logic, 10% baseless assertions or fallacy. For that reason I don't need to repudiate all of the content, but rest assured I will be repudiating the premises purporting to support Creation because they are baseless.
So lets run through the content of this 14-page essay.
It's far more logical, far more scientific, to see the overall 'pattern' in the reproduction of all living things as a 'master plan of design'. The very fact of embryonic beginnings looking similar is 'proof' of 'one great mind' who thought out all life.
Actually its not. Its important to understand that the intelligibility of the world is a consequence of things having certain characteristics, which cause though things to act in a certain way. The fact that things act in accordance with their nature is logical. If they acted anyway, that would be a 'miracle', so it seems the Christian folk are playing both sides of the table.
Embarrassing as it may become — "Which came first — the chicken or the egg?"
This is easy enough to answer - both the chicken and egg came before in the same way that chicken and eggs will come in future, and just as we appreciate when we graft a tree, both the seed and the apple came first, and will come after the fact. Evolution is not a historical fact, its an ongoing one. We did not create it in a laboratory, we have for the past 15,000 years been part of the process, and we are taking our influence to the next step, to out-conceptualise what you might imagine to be God, but is really just commonplace wisdom for those with focus and commitment.
Andrew Sheldon
Attention all atheists!!
In fact anyone who has had an interesting encounter with a Christian which involved manipulation, deception or blatant rationalisation. This is research or material for a forthcoming book. I am not suggesting that all Christians are criminals, dangerous or threats to society, but I am suggesting that Christianity is a basis for moral inefficacy. There is a reason why Christian nations are always at war. There is a reason why former Christians (or children of Christians) have a tendency to drift into cults and extreme religious groups. Thank you for any life experiences you can recall. ----------------------------------------------- Andrew Sheldon