Friday, July 12, 2013

Politics is a Disgrace as Usual

My blog is a dismal failure of late. I have not had time to commit to much writing, nor perhaps have I had the inclination. Sometimes one fatigues of writing out against or for issues of importance. The world seems to chug along inevitably towards environmental disaster, increased focusing of wealth and power by fewer and fewer, and more and more corruption by governments. Sometimes you have to just think: "What's the point anymore?" However, I am compelled to write a bit partly because of a noticeable void on the blogosphere. Mr. Bruce Gerencser, perhaps Ohio's most infamous atheist, has disappeared from the web. This is a pity, as he is a fabulous writer and, with his extensive and lengthy career as a minister, he provides valuable insight to those who have left religion (or those considering such a move). Bruce has run a blog called Moving Forward in which he wrote extensively about his experience as a pastor, his leaving the church, and his other thoughts on living as a former Christian in a very Christian environment. Bruce, if you are out there, come back!

In the meantime, a few of us lesser mortals should pick up the flag and soldier on.

What is on my mind of late? Well, as usual the crazy world of the religious. I recently heard a radio interview with a local Muslim cleric who was fairly outraged that a foiled terrorist plot against a government building here in Canada had been smeared with the Islamic terrorism brand, even though it was to be committed by those seeming unconnected to traditional Islamic terrorism. I am not trying to be politically incorrect here, but the whole argument put forth that Islam is a peaceful religion is almost laughable. Sure, there are many peaceful Muslims, and there are possibly even some Muslims who are more peaceful than they would be if they did not have their religion. But, to me this argument is the same as the one that claims Christianity is a religion about loving your neighbour and treating them like you would yourself. That might be one small portion of what Christianity is about, but to say that that is only what it is about skips over some monstrous evils in the religion. Same with Islam. Why oh why do humans need religion to think they will be peaceful? Can we not just understand and accept that violence typically stems from a feeling of not being recognized in one's proper place in the human hierarchy? People who are confident in their place in the world don't typically feel the need to go out and kill others. Only those who feel slighted in some way, often because they have a falsely grandiose sense of self, feel the need to show others they are right by force.

This brings me to politics. I hate politics and I am on the verge of becoming apolitical. I have typically voted in the past because I feel that it is my duty, but it really is getting unappealing. I can't think of a single politician that I would have the option of voting for, for whom I would feel comfortable voting. I think I can honestly say that every single vote I have ever cast since I came of age has been a choice made against a candidate rather than for the one I ended up voting for. Is that really how democracy is supposed to work?

Well, for those, like myself, who think that politicians are all liars and cheats, the past few months have been an astounding reinforcement. The federal government in Canada is facing some significant scandals. The biggest of these (I mean apart from the scandal that they cheated in an election, twice) is that a senator by the name of Mike Duffy (senators are unelected and appointed basically for life in Canada - until they reach an antiquated forced retirement age) spend a shitload of money flying around the country and then claimed reimbursement from the tax-payers by breaking the rules on his official province of residence. He represents the province of Prince Edward Island in the senate, but he has lived in Ottawa for so long that he is technically a resident of Ottawa. In any case, he ended up owing the Canadian tax-payers $90,000, as sum that for some reason he couldn't afford to pay back (how could you not afford to pay it back when you've just claimed it illegally to begin with?), so the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, cut him a personal cheque for $90,000 to help him out. Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy are not buddies, but they are of the same political party. Smell a fish? Yes, so did the media and the opposition parties. In the end Nigel Wright was forced to resign (why, if he did nothing wrong?) and the Prime Minister claims, unbelievably for a known control freak, to have had no knowledge of this payment. (The actual language released in a statement from the Prime Minister's Office was very sneaky and left a window open for someone to see how he could have known about it). What's the point of my rant? Well, it's just one more example of the kind of low-life power-hungry unethical scumbags that always seem to end up at the top of the heap in politics. Power ruins everything. The Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, one should note, gained most of his votes from conservative minded religious folks. Mr. Harper gained a majority government (after having his previous minority government defeated on a vote of no confidence based in being in contempt of parliament for cheating on the previous election) largely by campaigning on a promise of more transparency and accountability in government. Sheesh. Where do political parties find these people?

Apologies for a scattered blog post. It was my first in while.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

God is Indeed Dead: It is Scientifically Provable

A common claim in the discussion surrounding, made by both the religious and atheists or agnostics, is that God cannot be disproved. I think that many or most atheists allow this misconception based on the true premise that science cannot disprove a phenomenon without evidence for or against it. And, I think some of the more enlightened and less fundamentalist of the religious out there claim the same thing. They understand enough of the scientific method to understand that their claim of God cannot be disproved. Some of the religious use this as a petty form of argument: “You can’t disprove my God exists, therefore there is a good chance He exists.” But in this post I blame atheists and agnostics for their stance on this issue. I am disappointed to say that I have yet to meet an atheist who doesn’t concede this point, that God cannot technically be disproved, even if there is no evidence in support of His existence and even if it is overwhelmingly unlikely that He exists.

The reason I have a problem with this point of view is as follows. It is true that the notion of a non-specific deity cannot technically be disproved, but in reality we rarely talk about the potential existence of a non-specific, non-meddling, impersonal deity who shows no evidence for his or her existence. And, in practical terms it is the very specific gods of human history (Yahweh, Allah, or plain old “God”) who cause most of the debates about religion. “God exists, I have a personal relationship with Him, and you can’t disprove that.” Well, I beg to differ. Once you make your deity specific, as all who follow organized monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Islam, or Christianity necessarily do, then you put all the evidence for that specific deity out there for judgment. You can’t make very specific claims about the nature and the actions of your deity and then claim that since science cannot examine the evidence for that deity it cannot disprove it’s existence.

Let’s take a look at some of the very specific attributes attributed to the Christian God as an example.

  • It was claimed of the Christian God that He created the world in six days. We know scientifically that the world was not created in six days.

  • He is the same God that people claim answers their personal prayers. We know scientifically that prayers are not systematically answered. (Some scientific blinded studies have even been done showing no effect of prayer on health outcomes).

  • He is the same God that people claim sent himself to earth in human form through a virgin in the Middle East two millennia ago. We know scientifically that this is not possible, and we have pretty good reason to believe that it did not happen when you examine the verified records of the time.

  • He is the same God that people claim died and the came to life again a couple of days later. Again, we have very good reason to believe scientifically that this never happened. For such an unheard of event there should have been many, many written records of the event. Indeed, everyone who could write at the time would surely have written something about the event, especially considering it was apparently accompanied by a massive earthquake and a number of zombies walking around in plain sight in Jerusalem, none of which is recorded.

  • He is the same God that people claimed would come back to the Middle East in person within the lifetimes of the people there at the time. We know that did not happen.

These are a few examples of specific claims about a particular God which have been convincingly shown not to be true. So, it is no longer reasonable to simply say that science cannot disprove the existence of God, when you make such a claim about a very specific God whom you have defined carefully beforehand.

Some of these claims will be dismissed by more liberal-minded Christians by claiming that they were not intended to be taken literally. But this attitude is simply one of trying to move the target as needed. No one ever claimed that the Genesis account of creation was not to be taken literally until science showed that it couldn’t be true. Only after that did the religious alter their claims out of necessity and start to claim that it’s just a story that describes something more profound. A classic case of making your beliefs fit the irrefutable evidence as needed.

If, when you refer to “God”, you are referring to the God in the Bible, the God that most Christians would consider their deity, then it is entirely reasonable to state that God does not exist. It is also entirely reasonable to state that science has proven He does not exist. The religious would be flawed to then claim that science can’t technically disprove the existence of their God, because most of the qualities and history of that God have been disproved. To alter the qualities and history of God to fit the new evidence that arises from science (such as the fact that the world was not created in six days), is to simply ignore the facts and to adjust your target in order to cling to your belief.

If you really want to be convincing in your argument that science cannot disprove your God, then you need to define your God, explain what he/she is like, what he/she does, what he/she has done in the past, and then let science take it’s best crack at disproving it. The only deities so far that science is unable to disprove are the ones that are specifically poorly described such as the Invisible Pink Unicorn or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, gods such as Allah, Yahweh, or other monotheistic deities have long since been disproved as convincingly as has the notion that the sun revolves around the earth.