Uncommon Sense

July 8, 2019

The Ken Ham Theistic Argument for the Existence of Aliens

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 12:20 pm
Tags: ,

This an argument.

1. God is maximally great; there can be no greater deity.
2. God created man on planet Earth.
3. A deity which created man on Earth and aliens on other planets would be a greater deity.
4. Therefore, God created aliens on other planets.

Corollary to the Ken Ham Argument
1. A deity which created six races of aliens would be greater than one which created only five.
2. A deity which created ten races of aliens would be greater than one which created only nine.
3. Therefore, a deity which created n+1 races of aliens would be greater than one which created only n.
3. God is maximally great; there can be no greater deity.
4. Therefore God created alien races on all of the other planets.

But then, I might have missed something, no?

July 7, 2019

Tying Oneself in Knots for Jesus, Part 2

In Tying Oneself in Knots for Jesus, Part 1, I addressed William Lane Craig’s argument for the existence of his god, the Kalam Cosmological Argument, particularly how it is dependent upon how time works. The argument, goes something like this:

  1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
    2. The universe has a beginning of its existence.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
    4. Therefore, if the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.
    5. Therefore, God exists.

I say “something like this” because there are a great many ways this argument is made.

Most modern philosophers allude to the Big Bang Theory when making this argument as “the beginning of the universe.” Unfortunately they make a whole slew of mistakes in doing so. This is what this post is about.

In capsule form, the “Big Bang Theory” (which was originally a pejorative label designed to cast scorn upon the theory) was formulated by an extrapolation. Up to the last 100 years or so we had no idea that the universe was expanding. Once we discovered it was, an enterprising scientist (who happened to also be a Catholic priest) said that if the expansion rate was consistent, then the universe would have begun its expansion 12-14 billion years ago. Since everything in the universe is moving away from every other thing (roughly), going back that far in time would have the stuff of the universe converging into a very, very small package.

In order to see all of the stuff flying apart as it is now, that beginning bit of stuff must have exploded, hence the Big Bang (actually a Really, Really Big Bang). Note Fourteen billion year extrapolations are rife with error. Consider how effectively we extrapolate weather pattern to predict the weather just a few days into the future.

Now, as you may well know, scientists cannot leave well enough alone and things have gotten a great deal more complicated, but that is the Big Bang Theory in a nutshell. And it did have scorn heaped upon it at its beginning, because just before it was proposed, most physicists thought that the universe was both eternal and static (not expanding). Finding out it was not static was mind boggling enough, but the consequence that the universe could not be eternal because of that was a bit too much for some to take. The nail in the coffin of a static, eternal universe was the discovery of the Cosmic Background Radiation, an actual artifact of the Big Bang, but let’s not get too far afield here.

The more ignorant sort claim that the Big Bang Theory has the universe being created from “nothing” but this is a mistake on their part. They also presume that the primordial universe (sometimes referred to as a “singularity”) was sitting in space when it went bang. According to the actual theory, all of matter and all of space-time are in that bit, so that bit is “the universe” and there is nothing else. This means no “empty space,” people, and no time outside of that bit.

So, these apologists, continuing to argue from ignorance, claim that their god provided the triggering event of the Big Bang, becoming the “cause” of the universe blowing up, in an obvious act of creation.

Again, this is bogus. This triggering is not the First Cause, as they claim their god to be. To trigger an event, there has to be something to trigger. So, what is the cause of the existence of the “singularity universe?” Why does it even exist? The correct answer, apologists, is “We don’t know,” not your god created it. You do not know that.

In “we don’t know” scenarios, one approach to advance is to hypothesize ways that the event could have occurred. One of these “educated guesses” might provide a clue as how to proceed closer to an answer. Here is an example of one such possibility. The “singularity universe” is inherently unstable and will always blow up once they are formed. (Why, we don’t know, but it is a possibility.) They will have to be unstable because there can be no triggering event to cause it to blow (there is no space, no time, outside of the singularity and change takes time, so any change has to come from within the tiny universe). Another singularity universe is created by the contraction of a universe as we see now. This is called the Big Crunch because all of the matter, time and space will necessarily get squeezed back into a much smaller space. I am not saying that this will happen, but that it might. If it did, then there are no “causes” of the universes that are created, they just happen. Of course, people can ask “what set this into being?” And, if this hypothesis were proven, I am sure that question will be asked. To which I answer, the universe is under no obligation to answer our questions.

Afterthought The Big Crunch Theory was originally dismissed for quite a long list of reasons (for one the universe’s expansion is accelerating and we would expect it to slow, stop, and then come back together for this scenario to work), but is currently being revived in a second go around.

An alternative to the BCT is the singularity universe is caused by a leak from another dimension (from the Multiverse, as it were). Another alternative . . .

My request of theists is that if you are going to play the God of the Gaps Card, make sure you actually know what the gaps are.

July 6, 2019

Tying Oneself in Knots for Jesus, Part 1

I am currently reading a critique of William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument for the existence of his god. Dr. Craig is a philosopher and Christian apologist of some note. If you are unfamiliar with the argument, it goes something like this:

  1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
    2. The universe has a beginning of its existence.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
    4. Therefore, if the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.
    5. Therefore, God exists.

The author of this critique (Unreasonable Faith: How William Lane Craig Overstates the Case for Christianity) James Fodor starts with a tidbit I had not heard, namely that “‘Kalam’ is Arabic for ‘word’, and is the term that Craig adopted to describe his argument because it is built upon the work of various medieval Islamic theologians.” Wait a minute. I do not think Islamic theologians would be creating an argument for the existence of Yahweh, now would they? They would be arguing for the existence of Allah. How can an argument for the existence of Allah be turned into an argument for the existence of Yahweh? My first guess is that Christians would say that Allah is a false god and therefore cannot be proven to exist, but then my question becomes “How can an argument for the existence of a false god be turned into an argument for the existence of a real god?” Argh! Never mind; sorry for the diversion.

Back to the Kalam!

I had just started reading the critique of the Kalam when a bomb gets thrown. Apparently, Craig is aware that there is not universal agreement regarding time. He is quoted as having written “The kalam cosmological argument presupposes from start to finish a theory, not of tenseless time, but of tensed time, according to which temporal becoming is an objective feature of the world.”

Tensed time? Tenseless time? Wha?

Okay, I had heard about these discussions regarding time in a physics context. “Tensed time” is time as most of us understand it. We exist in “the now,” aka “the present,” which separates the past from the future. Once something slides into the past, we no longer have the ability to examine it. And things in the future aren’t accessible because they haven’t happened yet. “Tenseless time” makes the conjecture that the past, present, and future all exist just at different temporal coordinates.

Note how these two viewpoints affect the concept of time travel. In tensed time, time travel would be impossible, because there is no past to go back to, nor is there a future to go to, there is only the now. If in six months, the house across the street from yours is to be demolished and you were to hop into your time machine to move seven months into the future, when you stepped out of that machine, that house would be gone. Step back in and come back to when you began and the house would be back. There are serious problems with this viewpoint, making time travel basically impossible.

However, if the all of the pasts and futures all exist, you could hop around to your heart’s delight because those are just existing states to be visited. They don’t have to be created by your time travel machine.

Clearly, this has implications for Craig’s god. If time is tenseless, then there seems to be some hope for his god existing outside of time. It is outside and steps into the time stream in 4 CE. It is outside again, and gets to New York in 2001 in time to witness the 9-11 events. If time is tensed, then there would be no ability for this god to access any time that had already passed. World War 1 would have already happened and the ships, planes, tanks, and soldiers all turned to dust. How would those be recreated? Magic, I guess. And Christian apologists frequently claim that their god is a maximally endowed being, that no greater being could be imagined. I suspect that a god that can live outside of time and can time travel is greater than one that cannot, no? And, if his god can do this, then it also has a way to become all-knowing, by hopping around to any event past or future and seeing what did or will happen. So, clearly Craig must favor tenseless time, the viewpoint of time that allows for time travel and for his god to exist outside of time for however long it wants and to be all-knowing, and . .  and. . . .

Er, no. Craig insists that time is tensed.

The Kalam is what Craig’s first doctorate dissertation was based upon (a Ph.D. in Philosophy). It is his pride and joy, the work he made his bones on as a Christian apologist. If time is tensed, then the universe can have a beginning and an end . .  and a creator. If time is tenseless, then the universe always is and no creator is needed and the Kalam argument goes “poof.”

I am intrigued to see if Fodor brings this up in his critique.



July 5, 2019

Is This A Breakthrough in Figuring Out How Quantum Mechanics Actually Works?

Filed under: Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:44 am
Tags: ,

This very much may be such a breakthrough. Enjoy, physics geeks! (It is written for a scientifically literate, but lay audience.)

The Quantum Theory That Peels Away the Mystery of Measurement



Patriotism 101: Were the Pilgrims Seeking Religious Freedom?

As school children, we were taught that the Pilgrims came to these shores at Plymouth Rock, seeking religious freedom. Is this true? Actually, it is not true, per se. Again, this is a form of soft propaganda. Americans tend to pump the “freedom” aspect whether it is valid or not.

The Pilgrims were a persecuted religious sect in England. In fact, virtually all religious sects in England were persecuted as the kingship of that country changed based upon wars, etc. When the Kings/Queens were Catholic, the Protestants were heretics. When the King/Queen was a Protestant, the Catholics were heretics. This is what you get when the king is also the head of the state church. This is why the drafters of the constitution built a wall between church and state and built a country based upon laws and not royal whims.

Back to the Pilgrims.

Many Pilgrims fled English persecution to . . . Amsterdam. The Dutch had created a haven of religious tolerance in their country. The Pilgrims were tolerated, were not persecuted, and stayed there for some years. But then, some of these Dutch Pilgrims fled The Netherlands to America. The question is why? It wasn’t because they were fleeing religious persecution. In their own words they wanted to escape having to live and work rubbing elbows with all of the non-Pilgrims in their adopted country.

When they arrived here, what kind of society did they build? They built a theocracy that was stern and unforgiving. In other words, they became the religious persecutors. There were laws based upon theological issues. Blasphemy was punishable by death. Not going to church got you put into the stocks.

So, the Pilgrims did not come to the “New World” to acquire religious tolerance, certainly not religious freedom, unless you believe that religious freedom is the freedom of one religion to repress all of the others.

If I may quote from The Founding Myth by Andrew L. Seidel (p. 106):
“The Puritans and the Pilgrims wanted—and got—Christian nations. They established pure theocracies: strongly religious governments able to stamp out heresy, execute schismatics, and banish all but the meekest. Few settlers wanted to permanently join this harsh monoculture after experiencing it. One of the pillars of the Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam (later to become New York when the English took over SR), a young lawyer named Adriaen van der Donck, wrote about an English refugee, a clergyman, who “came to New England at the commencement of the troubles in England, in order to escape them, and found that he had got out of the frying pan and into the fire. He betook himself, in consequence, under the protection of the Netherlanders, in order that he may, according to the Dutch reformation, enjoy freedom of conscience, which he unexpectedly missed in New England.”

“The Puritans imposed the death penalty for worshipping other gods, blasphemy, homosexuality, and adultery. It is out of this society and this mindset that the terrible idea of a Christian nation founded on Christian principles lodged itself in the American psyche. And it is this intolerant legacy that must be abandoned. That is what a Christian government looks like: exclusive, exclusionary, divisive, hateful, severe, and lethal. It resembles modern theocracies in the Middle East. The insufferable Puritan theocracy declined after King Charles II revoked the colonial charter and passed the Toleration Act of 1689.”

So, America was the “Land of Opportunity” the “opportunity to do what” was left blank.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t add the following quote from that same book to address what the “bringing of Christian civilization” to the heathens in the New World looked like:
“The Puritans also waged a holy war on the Pequots, setting fire to a village on the Mystic River, killing 700 Native men, women, and children. The survivors were sold into slavery. The genocide was like something out of the Book of Joshua. And indeed, the Puritans saw it that way. They saw themselves as instruments of their god’s holy will: ‘Such a dreadful Terror did the ALMIGHTY let fall upon [the Natives’] Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished.” According to John Mason, the Puritan militia commander, his god laughed while he murdered: “But GOD was above them, who laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to Scorn, making them as a fiery Oven…. Thus did the LORD judge among the Heathen, filling the Place with dead Bodies!”’

Followup–Same Point, Different Spin https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/why-the-pilgrims-really-came-to-america-hint-it-wasn-t-religious-freedom.html

July 4, 2019

Assuming John Is Right . . .

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:24 am

I posted recently (in Apparently He Didn’t Check His Notes) that Yahweh forbade the sacrifice of children on pagan altars, but then created a son and sacrificed him to lift the curse He had laid upon Adam and Eve.

To which John Branyan replied: “You ever heard of an adult making a rule for a child that they don’t follow themselves?” (Since John is sensitive to being misquoted (aren’t we all?) I copied and pasted his response to make sure I got it right. Did I get it right, John?)

Now in my response to his response, I argued against this assertion, but maybe that is the wrong way to go. In this post I want to start from an assumption that John is indeed correct and see where it takes us.

Yahweh made a rule (Deuteronomy 18:9-14) that “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, . . .” but that He Himself is not bound by that rule. Okay, that is our starting point. I will not bother to address the difference between burning and crucifying, because that is splitting hairs a bit too finely.

So, why was this forbade in the first place? Did He not test Abraham by asking him to make an offering of his own son? And did not Abraham accept this task (reluctantly, but he was a god-fearing man . . .)? So, at this point (Genesis) human sacrifice was okay by Yahweh . . . and Abraham. So, why does Yahweh forbid this? The point in time is when the Israelites are to enter the promised land and Yahweh is issuing “do’s” and “don’ts.” He doesn’t want His Chosen People to be contaminated by the Canaanites. Of course, we find out later that the Israelites were Canaanites, just those who worshiped Yahweh and weren’t invaders from the outside because they were already there, but warnings to not have the Yahweh worshipers be contaminated by the El worshipers and Asherah worshipers and Baal worshipers seems timely and, I assume, appropriate. I guess since he was pumping up the Israelites to go slaughter their enemies/neighbors, He might be afraid the passion of events could cause some of His worshipers to think for themselves.

So, why was human sacrifice forbidden then? It doesn’t seem that this is a moral pronouncement because Yahweh shows no hesitance to sacrifice people/animals/whatever on his altars. If it were a moral pronouncement, then Yahweh would be exhibiting a state of less than perfection, so that isn’t a good choice for theists.

So, why? Why the rule?

It is part of a screed against the performance of magic, but this is also iffy. Magic shows up over and over in scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments. (Jesus does magic!) Yahweh gets the ball rolling by making Adam out of mud and Eve out of a rib. Hey, didn’t he just create hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars and trillions of planets? He needs mud and a rib to make two paltry human beings? It is an element of magic to transform matter, not so much to create it from scratch. (The Jews played with this topic: see “golems” and related topics.)

The Bible is rife with blood magic. Blood can make you unclean (only if you are a woman, if you are a wounded warrior for Yahweh, all is well). Blood determines your future. Blood transmits sins from father to son, to son, to son, to son, to son, . . . etc. Blood magic is all over the Bible. So, why pick on magic then? Is Yahweh endorsing His magics over those of the other gods? The usual theist response to such questions is “God works in mysterious ways.” Translating that into English gives us “Haven’t got a clue, mate.”

One of the arguments against using a human sacrifice is based upon Jesus being acclaimed as the Messiah. Any Jew would respond with “Then he was a fuck-all Messiah because He was executed and we were still yoked to the Romans.” This is not the way to convince Jews that Jesus was a Messiah. (And there were no Christians at the time, none, only Jews to get the message.)

Wait, this is the best an all-powerful god could come up with to lift a curse that He created by simply speaking it. How about speaking “I now lift my curse, to give all you chaps a second chance, but only if you believe Jesus was my son, er, me. You don’t get a free lunch here.” He could say this so that everyone on the planet could hear him! Not just a small group of ignorant Middle Easterners in the outskirts of Jerusalem. See, even I, a lowly atheist can come up with a better solution to the “lift the curse” task. I gotta believe an all-knowing and all-powerful god could do better, much better . . . and it didn’t.

How many holes in this ridiculous narrative is acceptable? One hundred, a thousand? How many ridiculous claims are people expected to believe?

July 3, 2019

The Enduring Idiocy of The Great Flood Story

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:54 pm
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I still wonder why such an improbable tale holds such sway over popular imaginations. We are still writing books about it, asking questions about it, making movies about it, as if it were a real event. People are still searching for the remnants of the ark (if they can be taken at their word and they aren’t just scammers).

I have been commenting about the “holes” in the Biblical narrative. This story is very “holey” indeed. If we just take a step back and look at the event in broad strokes, we see that the main god character, Yahweh (the most powerful fictional character ever invented by humans), admits he made a mistake making humans, and kills all but eight of them (over a hundred million deaths estimated) and a small sample of animals, by drowning them.

This fact alone blows holes in the “all-knowing” power of Yahweh. He should have foreseen what was going to happen before it reached that stage. This also blows holes in the “all-powerful” power of Yahweh. His ability as a created seems to be really good when it comes to inanimate objects, like stars and planets and galaxies, but every time he creates sentient beings, they rebel against him. (And rebelling against an all-powerful, all-knowing god takes balls.)

A cute toy to celebrate the extermination of 100 million people!

Then the capper that no one talks about much is that Yahweh’s “reset,” or “do over,” or “restart,” didn’t work. By all accounts of the fundamentalist religions, we are still a depraved, sinful lot needing saving. Even Yahweh’s do over is effed up.

Has there ever been a more incompetent deity?

And this is a story that Christians are actively pumping! They make little Noah’s Ark toys for baby christians. They make Noah’s Ark books for toddler christians. And they use “teaching moments” from the Great Flood from the pulpits of churches for Adult Christians. They tell us that Yahweh promised to not do it again, which is a small grace considering how badly he effed it up the first time.

How can any human being with two brain cells to rub together think this is a story worth promoting?

July 2, 2019

The Absurdity of Maximizing Shareholder Value as a Business Goal

I have written about this before, but this post over at Naked Capitalism drives the nails home into the coffin of this very, very bad idea. (Being a Zombie idea will make this turkey very hard to kill.)

Rebel Economist Breaks Through to Washington on How Shareholder Value Theory Rewards the Undeserving


July 1, 2019

Apparently He Didn’t Check His Notes

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:15 pm
Tags: ,

“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord . And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-14)

Apparently Old Yahweh got a little confused when He decided the perfect way to lift his curse from Adam and Eve and all of their progeny was to father a child and sacrifice him by nailing him to a tree.

I repeat “. . . anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering . . .  is an abomination to the Lord. I guess he forgot to check his notes or maybe he doesn’t equate the sacrifice of Jesus to the burnt offering of some random child. No precedent there, nope: “Move along, these are not the gods you are looking for.”

Come on people, there are so many logical holes in this “narrative,” how can anyone believe this story without being completely intellectually dishonest?

Postscript And I didn’t even bring up all of the acts of magic perpetrated in those scriptures (including by Jesus) that, oh, have been forbidden. How many Israelite kings used soothsayers, astrologers, prophets, and other magic sources?

Will We Never Learn?

Filed under: Politics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:54 am
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There was a notice in The Guardian today (“Ozone layer finally healing after damage caused by aerosols, UN says”) which stated (in part):

“The ozone layer is showing signs of continuing recovery from man-made damage and is likely to heal fully by 2060, new evidence shows.”

“The results, presented on Monday in a four-year assessment of the health of the ozone layer, represent a rare instance of global environmental damage being repaired, and a victory for concerted global action by governments. Scientific evidence of the depletion of the ozone layer over the Antarctic was first presented in 1985, and in 1987 the Montreal protocol was signed, binding world governments to reduce and phase out the harmful chemicals identified as causing the problem.”

If you do not remember, there was quite the panic when it was discovered that the currently-used aerosol propellants (in spray paint, spray deodorant, hairspray, spray . . . everything) migrated into the upper atmosphere, where no one thought they would go, and decomposed under the influence of ultraviolet light producing a catalyst that caused the decomposition of ozone. (The mechanism for is was worked out in the early 1970’s, by the way.) We all then found out that ozone is a primary source of our protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays (those which cause sunburn on your skin) and that if we kept up our use of said aerosol propellants, we would be subjecting ourselves and all of the other plant and animal life on the planet to destructive radiation.

Even if you believe that some technological genius will save us,
the solution will take 100
years to work and the problem has always been
‘can we act fast enough’ and ‘can we adapt to the changes fast enough.’
The answers so far to these critical questions are ‘no’ and ‘no.’”

My point now is that effective measures took 20 years or so to agree upon and implement and then, even though we are now seeing positive results from those efforts 30 years later, it will take another 40 years for the damage to be fully healed. That’s a total of 70 years to fix the atmospheric problem we created in a much shorter time.

Now, we are standing in front of another atmospheric problem that is of much greater magnitude, that we have been bashing it around politically for 20 years or so and we have not come up with neither technological, nor political solutions to this problem. If the Ozone Hole Problem was any indicator, it may take as long as a century before we arrive at the end the Global Atmospheric Warming Problem . . . at the earliest.

While we have been whinging and cringing over who or what is at fault (Is it man-made? Is it natural? Is it CO2?) the fact that this is almost irrelevant to solving the problem eludes us. Even is natural CO2 is 50% to blame for the rise in atmospheric (and therefore ocean, and land, and . . .) temperatures, we still have to deal with the problem. The same is true for any other natural/man-made split. If it were 100% natural, then working to reduce man-made sources of CO2 would be futile, but it clearly is not this situation. To address the problem, we must shut off the source of the problem, as we did with the Ozone Hole Problem. Or we must remove that gas from the atmosphere in quantity.

We have not yet begun to fashion a solution and we are now seeing some of the dire effects predicted, actually occurring in advance of the dates predicted, so our estimates of the negative effects are too conservative. Even if you believe that some technological genius will save us, the solution will take 100 years to implement and the problem has always been “can we act fast enough” and “can we adapt to the changes fast enough.” The answers so far to these critical questions are “no” and “no.”

And it seems that the 1960’s prescription for what to do in the event of a nuclear attack also applies to how to respond to the effects of climate change (bend over and kiss your ass goodbye). At least we can do this ourselves.

And for us science types who thought that those quite dense aerosol propellants couldn’t possibly end up in the upper atmosphere, the lesson is “It ain’t what you don’t know that will kill you, it is what you think you know that ain’t so.” It is oh, so easy to confuse what we think we know with what we actually know. So often, what we think we know is an extension of what we do know and even mathematicians understand that interpolations (filling in the gaps) tend to be far more accurate than extrapolations (extending the trend out and out and out).

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