Science

Science vs God episode iii: The man dawkins refused to debate.

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William Lane Craig is widely considered the best Christian apologist living. Hitchens said that before this debate he received emails from fellow atheists, stating, “please don’t let us down.”

Dawkins has thus far refused to debate Craig, stating, “I don’t debate professional debaters.” But Hitchens is always willing to jump in the ring. It’s a long debate, so you’ll probably watch it in bits and chunks. But it’s a good one.

 

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Science vs God Episode II: Does Atheism Poison Everything?

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Here’s a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dr. David Berlinski, an admitted secular Jew who does not practice any religion. He does however have advanced degrees in mathematics and philosophy. Hitchens’ reputation is well known.

In this debate, two debate the opposite proposition that Hitchens made in one of his books, that religion poisons everything.

Science vs God Episode 1

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Science of course does not need to compete with God even if God exists. But I’ve decided to begin posting debates between experts on issues of evolution and religion and science in general as it relates to the existence of God. I will try to pick debates that I consider well-argued from both points of view. Keep an open mind.

Also keep in mind, that the person arguing in favor of religion always faces a disadvantage. Afterall, he or she is trying to convince of something unseen. Just as it is easier to convince a man standing in the United States of the US’ existence than it is to prove to him the existence of China while he’s not in that country.

When science makes people stop asking questions

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If you haven’t heard, Richard Dawkins has a problem with religion. He says his primary complaint with religion is that it makes people stop asking questions. Dawkins:

Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.

My religion never had this effect on me. In fact, every bit of science that i learn about feels like I am learning something about the character of God. That’s important to me.

It may be the case, and this is only a theory, that science in the modern day falls more in line with Dawkins’ assertion, than does religion, at least in Western countries. And by science I do not mean the scientific process, or empirical, direct evidence. I mean the mere label of science and its effect on the laymen. As long as the headline reads, “Study shows” or “scientists say”, there’s not a whole lot of consideration that goes into whether there are holes in the conclusions. Another problem is that much is lost in the translation between scientific journal and popular media headline.  Of course, many times the scientists are correct.

Humans, and thus scientists, are very good at producing tests and using empirical evidence to draw conclusions about specific, short term phenomena. They are not so good at extrapolating these observed phenomena far into the future or the past. Consider a game of chess between world class players. Chess involves no chance, and today’s best players have played so many games and studied chess to such an extent that they know the correct response to all opening moves. But they do not extrapolate dozens of moves into the future as is sometimes believed. They only consider the board as it is in front on them, and perhaps 5 moved ahead. The possibilities become so complicated as a player looks 10-20 moves ahead, that it becomes a waste of precious time, as the clock ticks in professional matches.

And so comes my major problems with the science of global warming and Darwinism: The extrapolations conducted by the most powerful chess minds on the planet are dwarfed by the extrapolations made by evolutionary scientists and global warming theorists. It’s not even close. Besides the obvious problem with looking millions of years into the past through the lens of theory, there are logical problems that are difficult to clear up, in the case of evolution for instance; ie irreducible complexity, the Cambrian Explosion, the problem of speciation etc. Really throwing a wrench into the works are recent studies that show Lamarckian Evolution is real. It seems the sins of the father really are laid upon the children.

MIT Technology Review:

 

These two new studies are unique in that the environmental change that triggers the effect–enrichment or early abuse–occurs before pregnancy. “Give mothers chemicals, and it can affect offspring and the next generation,” says Larry Feig, a neuroscientist at Tufts University School of Medicine, in Boston, who oversaw part of the research. “In this case, [the environmental change] happened way before the mice were even fertile.”

In Feig’s study, mice genetically engineered to have memory problems were raised in an enriched environment–given toys, exercise, and social interaction–for two weeks during adolescence. The animals’ memory improved–an unsurprising finding, given that enrichment has been previously shown to boost brain function. The mice were then returned to normal conditions, where they grew up and had offspring. This next generation of mice also had better memory, despite having the genetic defect and never having been exposed to the enriched environment.

I’m not proposing we cynically disregard everything coming from the world of science. That would be foolish. I am asking that people use their own brains, and look at studies and articles in popular outlets with a critical eye. Scientists do not always adhere to scientific processes or thought. The classic case is outlined in this WSJ article, talking about the collapse of the fat consumption/disease dogma that was prevalent for 6 decades in America. In fact, it seems scientists may have had it exactly wrong. Animal may be good for us. And institutional and political momentum can play a huge role in science: Once a scientist, politician or pundit makes a claim, it’s difficult to go back on the issue. By the time millions of dollars and political capital are spent spreading “the truth”, the damage is done and no one wants to admit that maybe they contributed to damaging people.

But there was no turning back: Too much institutional energy and research money had already been spent trying to prove Dr. Keys’s hypothesis. A bias in its favor had grown so strong that the idea just started to seem like common sense. As Harvard nutrition professor Mark Hegsted said in 1977, after successfully persuading the U.S. Senate to recommend Dr. Keys’s diet for the entire nation, the question wasn’t whether Americans should change their diets, but why not? Important benefits could be expected, he argued. And the risks? “None can be identified,” he said.

In fact, even back then, other scientists were warning about the diet’s potential unintended consequences. Today, we are dealing with the reality that these have come to pass.

Then there are the problems inherent in positivism. The economist EF Schumacher explained:

The architects of the modern worldview, notably Galileo and Descartes, assumed that those things that could be weighed, measured, and counted were more true than those that could not be quantified. If it couldn’t be counted, in other words, it didn’t count.

Or Werner Heisennberg, the discoverer of quantum mechanics:

The positivists have a simple solution: the world must be divided into that which we can say clearly and the rest, which we had better pass over in silence. But can any one conceive of a more pointless philosophy, seeing that what we can say clearly amounts to next to nothing? If we omitted all that is unclear we would probably be left with completely uninteresting and trivial tautologies.

In other words, science should be as much concerned, maybe more, with what is hidden, as with what is obvious.

In the case of global warming, I perceive a severe lack of consideration by scientists that there’s a lot they can’t know about what determines climate. These climate scientists boldly state their recordings (some of which they made up, as we know), plug their numbers into their computer models, see that the models don’t get the predictions correct, and then lay a guilt trip on us for questioning “science”. They fail to consider what they have not measured.

Darwin was a great scientist, and not only because of his powers of perception, but because he was an immensely honest man who wanted to see the truth. In his book, The Origin of Speiies, Darwin wrote two entire chapters (chapters 6 and 9) that addressed why he may be wrong. He calls the addressed arguments against his theory, “grave”, or in other words, powerful. Imagine that from Richard Dawkins. I’ve read these chapters, and indeed they are so powerful they actually strengthened my belief that Darwin’s theory is wrong. The foolish thing that many scientists like Dawkins do today, is make their opponents out to be unintelligent people, unthinking idiots. When Darwin synthesized his theory, he presented it to the most prominent biologist in the world at the time, Louis Agassiz of Harvard university. Agassiz is considered one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century. The Encyclopedia Britannica describes him as follows:

Louis Agassiz,  (born May 28, 1807, Motier, Switz.—diedDecember 14, 1873Cambridge, Mass., U.S.), Swiss-born U.S. naturalist, geologist, and teacher who made revolutionary contributions to the study of natural science with landmark work on glacier activity and extinct fishes. He achieved lasting fame through his innovative teaching methods, which altered the character of natural science education in the United States.

Darwin had immense respect for Agassiz and hoped he would back Darwin’s belief. To Darwin’s dismay, Agassiz rejected the theory of evolution.

Louis Agassiz

 

Aggassiz quipped:

Every great scientific truth goes through three stages. First, people say it conflicts with the Bible. Next they say it has been discovered before. Lastly they say they always believed it.

Then there is also the recent evidence, discovered by world-renowned Chinese  JY Chen. Chen found that the fossil beds from the Cambrian era show that Darwin’s tree of life is upside down. That is, the number of species has not increased; the tree narrows at the top. Many Chinese scientists believe that the fossil record shows a sudden apearrence of complex life without an evolutionary lead-up. When Chen lectured in America on his findings, he asked his sponsor why none of the scientists in the audience asked any questions about how all this impacted Darwinism. His sponsor said it was probably because scientists in America are afraid to question Darwin. Chen responded: “In my country we cannot question the government. In America, you cannot question Darwin.”

The scientism of today is leading to the closing of our minds. In the areas of computer science, math, and engineering, we’re doing very well, because testing theorems in those fields yields immediate feedback. But the name-calling coming from some against alternate theories in biology and climate is really just subterfuge. The name-callers don’t want to debate the facts in many cases. They just want opponents to go away. The accusations that dissent stems from a hatred of science is just not true. Dissent stems from the knowledge that scientists and journalists are human, and that they have biases and are prone to misinterpret data just as are the rest of us.

 

Fat again, naturally: The Vegetarian Taliban are at it again

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The soldier that I helped lose weight, posting the story on this blog a short time ago, is gaining weight again. This, despite a fairly intense bout of physical training with my army unit. I predicted this, as he has gone back to being a vegetarian. He wife makes him eat vegetarian, which I think serves two purposes. First, she believes, like all good zealots, that she knows what’s best for everyone else, and second, the vegetarian diet will lower his testosterone making him more docile and easy to control. Poor fellow is the victim of the growing matriarchy we now live in.

The soldier gets very little in the way of animal products and almost no fat. He says his wife allows him to eat egg whites and fish once in a while. That’s very nice of her, to allow her husband to have cheat days.

To completely understand, you must fully conceive of the types of people which comprise much of the the vegetarian jihad. Look here if you dare:

http://www.break.com/video/this-awkward-pro-vegan-video-makes-no-sense-2493212

Last week was a tough PT week. One day we did the Crossfit WOD: “Murph”. Actually, a modified version of it. 2 mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 150 body weight squats. The day after that we did a very fast paced 6 mile ruck march with 30 lbs in an assault pack, followed by 100 situps over 5 minutes. The day of the ruck march, the soldier sat in our office looking like he’d been hit by a truck. He was falling asleep at about 10:30 in the morning. As I stated earlier, he’s gaining back pounds after coming off a diet which included meat while in Afghanistan. He left the Taliban in Central Asia and returned to the American Vegan Taliban. And like the its more violent cousin, empirical reality has little impact on the Vegan Taliban’s beliefs.

The vegetarian diet is mostly incapable of sustaining high intensity exercise routines for very long. There are some exceptional people, mostly in the realm of cardio routines like running and cycling who perform at a very high level on vegetarian diets, but I’ve noticed that some of them begin to suffer from very odd disorders, some of the autoimmune variety. Their diets tend to be very highly micromanaged. Yes, it can be done. But it’s unnecessary. And most attempting veganism while maintaining a high level of activity will probably suffer some significant consequences. Our bodies gain fuel from two sources: Fat and carbohydrates. The more we exercise, the more fuel we need. Vegetarians must consume high levels of carbohydrates to maintain high levels of activity. If carbs are ingested but not followed by exercise, preferably of the intense variety, insulin is secreted, forcing the sugars into our fat cells. If this occurs on a chronic basis, we get fat. This is the only mechanism that makes us fat; insulin driven fat storage. Not only does insulin help store sugar as fat, it prevents fat’s release from storage so that it can be used as energy, even if you are hungry. Lowering carbohydrate consumption will enable your body to burn fat as energy, and fat is a much more useful fuel for day to day activity because it burns more slowly, whereas carbohydrates burn fast, leading to the energy roller-coaster effect some experience during the day. I can eat a three egg omelette with butter, cheese and bacon in the morning and not feel hungry until supper time. Appetite suppression is a well documented phenomena experienced when lowering carbohydrate consumption.

The reasons that people become vegetarians are rarely solely based on health concerns. I don’t care if someone really wants to be a vegetarian or vegan. But let’s deal in truth about the matter. Fat consumption does not cause heart disease. The vegetarian’s lifestyle is often a strand in the complex web of left-leaning thought. Thus, not only will meat give you a heart attack, it will in fact summon a great Apocalypse of unsustainable cow eating and cow flatulence, which we all know will lead to spiking global temperatures, melting polar caps, rising sea levels, and the ultimate demise of great radio stations like NPR.

Yeah, right. Eat all the vegetables you want. Just keep your jihad inside your own house. And if you’re getting fat and tired on your vegan diet, you may want to try something that fundamentalists eschew: Science.

Are atheists more intelligent than religious people?

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You may have read about the recent meta-study, which showed that atheists tend to have higher IQs than religious people. This is yet another example of the (re) emergence of hyper-rationalism. Call it the second wave.  The first wave occurred during the Soviet and Nazi regimes’ reigns. I’m not throwing the “Hitler Fallacy” out there just to scare or shame people into seeing things my way. Nor is this my call to anti-rationalism. In the case of Soviet Leninism and Nazi Fascism, both used science as propaganda in order to further ideology. 

The message that some people would like broadcast from this study is that smart people are atheists, dumb people believe in God.  Without going into the obvious causation/association issues with this argument, let’s look at why the study is nearly meaningless.

First, as the article I linked to states, what a study like this ends up doing is measuring things that the researches didn’t really intend to measure. IQ is a major factor in success in school, and SAT scores are largely reflective of IQ. Higher SAT score equals access to better schools. 

So, children with higher IQs have a much better chance of going to college.  The more intelligent they are, the better chance they have of going to elite schools, like Harvard, Yale, Stanford or Berkley. 

Each university has a culture. That culture for the most part is secular and liberal. This is in part due to an influx of intellectuals with left-leaning sentiments during the 50s and 60s, into the major universities. Many were outright Communists.  A pillar of Communism is atheism.  So we find on many campuses that smart people are atheists because “that’s what other smart people believe”.  Of course, we would likely find a very different correlation at another elite school that is associated with religion: Notre Dame.  I have no doubt that if we were to measure the IQs of Communist sympathizers and compare them to the IQs of say, average people in America during the 50s, 60s, and 70s,, we would find that the Communists had higher IQs.  But Communism utterly failed, and few today in America are full-blown Leninists.  But these “Communists” became so by hanging around birds with red feathers. Eventually they grew their own red feathers. A problem with intellectuals as opposed to scientists, is that they tend to over generalize. As Friedrich Heyek noted, many left-leaning intellectuals ignore the specifics, that is, the science of economics, in favor of generalized (ideological) notions about how to help the poor.  Looking at the details could lead an intelligent person to believe that government handouts are not the best answer, and that capitalism cuts into poverty more than giveaways.  The same goes for religion.  Intellectuals, whom are almost always intelligent people when measured by IQ, generalize about the non-existence of God.  Most college students would probably classify themselves as agnostic or atheist, but would do a very poor job if asked to engage in specific scientific or philosophical debate on the matter.  Their arguments would be based on (probably), “I can’t see God, and until I do, I don’t believe”. Yet college students have higher than average IQs.

Next is the problem of induction.  If it is true that atheists are just so because they are intelligent, than it should be so that by utilizing a form of Backward Induction,  and becoming atheists, people could raise their IQs.  This is absurd of course. But we also know that people with higher IQs tend toward drug use, drink more alcohol, and like cigarettes more. But no one argues those things actually make people more intelligent.  Moreover, Germany just prior to the Nazi takeover was considered the country with the highest scientific and social advancement.  Plenty of Germans were intelligent, and plenty of high IQ people were Nazis. 

Finally, intelligent people are susceptible to the Appeal to Novelty fallacy.  Intelligent people get bored easily and like new, different things.  In terms of civilizational time, atheism is very new. 

In summary, the higher IQ of atheists is due to the self-selecting nature of college attendees, the zeitgeist of modern universities, the tendency to avoid specifics, and the desire for novelty in the intelligent. 

Technocrats vs Theocrats

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“We just heard of a brand new way..we’ll have to wait and see if it’s half of what they say.” ~Loverboy, The Kid is Hot Tonight

On a friend of mine’s blog, I often present alternate views to the blog’s author and to many of the people who leave comments.  Predictably my opinions tend to be more conservative than others.  One line of comments was about global warming.  Being a global warming skeptic, I felt it necessary to point out some problems with the current model as it now stands.  The author of the blog asked why I would believe the minority of scientists over the majority’s opinion.

It is a legitimate question and I’ll give only a short answer here because this post is not really global warming. My primary arguments against the global warming model is not so much with the individual scientists that conduct the studies, though several of them have been caught fudging data in order to strengthen the perception that more warming is taking place than is actually occurring.  My main argument is against the alarmists such as Al Gore, who claim warming will lead to imminent catastrophe.  But there are also loopholes in the logic employed by the scientists themselves.

I’ve written articles on global warming, diet and evolution. In most cases my arguments are not the mainstream argument.  I also see some major problems with Psychology as a science.  I could be accused of being anti-intellectual or anti-science.  I don’t believe this is the case.

Essentially, my argument is one of Empiricism vs. Rationalism.  Both views hold legitimate value.  The Empirical view essentially says that human beings are limited in their knowledge because the only knowledge they can truly have is gained through limited senses.  Rationalism says that humans have innate knowledge and can extrapolate facts that are beyond human senses.  It is possible that a person take an empirical view of some phenomena and a rationalist view of others.  For instance, in my view of global warming and the current model of evolution, I am an empirical skeptic.  In the case of God and Christianity I am a rationalist.

Let me explain why I am a skeptic in some cases but not others.  I’ll use techniques that intelligence analysts employ to develop what is called the Enemy Course of Action.  As an analyst, I develop the enemy’s Most Likely Course of Action (COA) and his most Most Dangerous Course of Action (MDCOA). The analyst may compose several COAs. Think of these as hypothesis in scientific terms. Using information, gathered intelligence and careful thinking, the analyst draws up the plan that the enemy is most likely to employ against the friendly military.  The analyst also creates a product that shows the most dangerous actions an enemy may employ.  Much of the process is rational.  An analyst cannot know for sure where the enemy will be in the future, but he can extrapolate using analysts tools and logic.  But there are parts of the process that are empirical, too.  The analyst has to provide ways that his hypothesis can move up the scientific slide-scale to theory.  To do this, he creates Known Areas of Interest (NAIs)and Indicators.  NAIs are areas of terrain that would be monitored with intelligence assets in order to cull Indicators.  Indicators are “proofs” that the enemy is committing to a certain predicted course of action.  So, if a MDCOA states that the enemy will use chemical weapons against friendly battalion headquarters, an indicator may read like this:  “In NAI 1, enemy soldiers are wearing or carrying personal protective chemical gear. ” If intelligence collection assets see this, and the information makes it back to the analyst and commander, they can both begin focusing on the MDCOA as the enemy’s plan of action.

So what’s my point?  The point is that analysts can only give the most likely event that will occur as well as their opinion on what is the most dangerous. He has to back up his claims with potential indicators.  And here’s where I see the problems with global warming.  If I were an analyst using the above model to figure out what is going to happen because of global warming, I would say it global warming will have have very little impact on people’s lives.  Scientists can look at the empirical facts, like temperature measurements at various points around the globe.  They can see that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, because they can create closed systems and inject CO2 into that system and observe CO2’s effects on heat conservation. But there are many things that scientists cannot see empirically with global warming.  They cannot see the end result of global warming, they can only rationalize what the end result may be.  And if we use the past as an indicator for what may happen in the future, than we must come to the conclusion that the predicted temperature increases do not present a clear and present danger to mankind, because the Earth has been much warmer and contained much more CO2 in the past than it does now.  And let’s remember that the Earth is not warming as fast as climate models predicted, thus the weakness of rationalism.  Several years ago, Al Gore assured us of catastrophe.  But man-made CO2 is an extremely small percentage of greenhouse gas, and we know that temperature does not increase in a linear fashion with CO2.  The impact of man-made CO2 on temperature is not known.  It may be so low as to be immeasurable.  If someone tells me that human survival is threatened by global warming, they have to give me indicators and they also have to show how much impact human activity has on the warming in the first place, because otherwise we have very little control of what the weather does.  They also have to give explanations for past warming before the industrial age and why no warming has occurred in the last 15 years.  Most importantly, they have to show me why nations should spend trillions of dollars on programs such as the Kyoto Protocol.

Science is not very good at predicting.  The major areas of current scientific practice that most trouble me are the ones that seek to extrapolate over very long periods of time.  I see the problem like this: If a man who is shooting a rifle at a target 50 meters away misses by 4 inches, that same shot would have missed a more distant target by an even wider margin.  And yet in the case of evolution, scientists seek to tell us what happened millions of years ago.  Is it not reasonable to surmise that they may be off the mark just a bit? Global warming too seeks to tell us what will happen in the year 2040.  Both evolution and catastrophic results of global warming are fine hypothesis. But empirical evidence does not yet support those hypothesis as scientific fact.

Ideological thinking can and has damaged the science.  Take diet for instance.  In many cases, the thinking goes like this: “I like animals, therefore I don’t like to kill animals, and therefore eating meat and fat damages my health.” “I like nature, nature is the environment without man in it, therefore any man-made technology is bad for nature.” “I do not believe in God, therefore evolution is true.” The opposite also happens.  “I don’t believe in evolution because I believe in God.”  In other words, people do not believe certain things because of science, they believe the science because of certain other things.  As we know from the Nazis, science can be used to support any ideology. And times and thinking change.  Scientific consensus, like religious consensus, is subject to change.  As Loverboy sings: The kid is hot tonight, but where will he be tomorrow?  The hot new idea may fade, and thus laws should only be made in the case of strong empirical evidence.

The truly damaging aspect of this is the linear thinking that science and religion can never mix.

Do I hold Christianity and the existence of God to the same standard I hold evolution and the global warming catastrophe hypothesis? Yes I do.  The primary difference is that in one case, global warming, some people want to spend trillion of dollars  to change and in most cases slow down modern economies.  As far as my belief in Christianity goes, I do not want laws made that require people to be Christians because 1) That kind of Christianity would be wholly inauthentic 2) I may be wrong.

 I especially may be wrong on the small minute details of the religion, for God had to constantly correct the men in the Old Testament and the New. No man can conceive fully, God.  Moreover, no two men’s concept of God can be exactly the same, mathematically speaking.   Theocrats, such as the Taliban, want to calcify thinking.  So do the Technocrats or those that make laws based on science that extrapolates and does not see first hand.

I have come to the conclusion through rationalization, that there is probably a God, something or someone that created the universe.  And the logical conclusion I draw is the same as Nietzsche’s, that without God, there is no good and evil, that people can only make claims to right or wrong based on how they feel about things.   And the problem with that is that there will always be someone who feels differently.   The Taliban feel it’s ok to shoot disobedient women in the head.  No Atheist could argue with the Taliban on any moral grounds, because life had no meaning without the sacred, it only has fleeting feelings.

In the end, my belief in God does not harm people, at least as far as I can tell.  Indeed, using the classic model or what makes a man right and just, Christianity improved me significantly, so there is a utilitarian argument for Christianity in my case.  Should a law be made that all people had to believe exactly as I do, that law would most likely harm even me, because it’s unlikely my views in 20 years will be exactly as they are now.

And yet the Technocrats want to make laws that tell us exactly how we can think and act, sometimes based on very poorly understood and complicated things, like brain chemistry. I am not saying that we can never reach a level of adequate surety in these various areas, but it doesn’t seem like we’re there yet.   When an engineer builds a plane that cannot fly, the results are immediately evident. When climate scientists or pundits claim Florida will be under water in 50 years so we’d better spend millions, well show me the money.

Schools cannot teach alternative views to evolution, nor do they even talk about the unanswered aspects of the hypothesis.  Some children are forced by state law to take medication for ADD before they can attend school.  And our society accepts this Technocratic rule because it believes people who think otherwise are unscientific and stupid.  In essence, we have accepted science’s version of the Taliban.