Friday, June 16, 2006

The existence of God as evidenced through the intelligent design of a banana

I have heard it once said that atheists are humorless. I don't know about that, I think alot of us have a really good sense of humor. Hell, you have to just to stay sane in a world of clashing religious fundies! Anyway, the blogger the Atheologist I think has alot of humor on his blog.

So thanks to The Atheologist: Evangelist Inadvertently Turns Christians Into Homosexuals who has posted a link to this hilarious video of evangelist Ray Comfort and his TV star friend Kirk Cameron arguing that we know god exists because the banana was perfectly designed for human consumption. Follow the link to the video at google video,
the banana argument is in the first five minutes or so. It has alot of homoerotic undertones and is hilarious.

The rest of the video is also kind of funny. They beat the intelligent design creator argument to death, and it revolves around some silly straw man arguments about atheism and atheists. First they argue that there really are no atheists, because nobody can claim to have absolute knowledge, so atheists are really agnostics.
Of course, I don't think I have ever heard any philosophically informed atheist claim to know without a doubt that that there is no God. Most atheists don't make absolute unsubstantiated knowledge claims, we leave that to the believers. Instead we, or at least I, argue that based on the lack of evidence for God's existence, and the weak arguments put forward by theists, God PROBABLY does not exist.

Another tactic they use is to interview alleged atheists on the street and on a college campus, submitting them to "the atheist test". They ask their victim "are you a good person?" the victim says "yes", and then they ask if they have ever stolen or lied, and the unwitting victim admits that they have. They then go on to argue that because the victim has lied, that makes them a liar, and if they have stolen, that make them a thief, and therefore they are obviously not a good person. This leads the interviewer into attempting to cajole the victim into admitting he is a sinner in need of salvation.

Obviously there are many problems with this line of reasoning. Most people have at least lied and have probably stolen at least once in their lives. This of course does not define their entire character. Then there are the notions of sin, salvation, and its alleged alternative, eternal damnation. Which is all poppycock that I won't get into at this time.

Anyway, it might be a good idea to watch the video just so you know what an evangelist might throw at you!

The Secular Outpost: Collins defends God

Ok, here we go, I guess this will be my first official post on my own blog. I actually left the following as a comment at The Secular Outpost: Collins defends God where Taner Edis linked to an article about Human Genome scientist Francis Collins and his belief in so-called "Theistic Evolution",,2087-2220484,00.html

Pasted from the linked article, my comment follows:

"Among Collins’s most controversial beliefs is that of “theistic evolution”, which claims natural selection is the tool that God chose to create man. In his version of the theory, he argues that man will not evolve further.

“I see God’s hand at work through the mechanism of evolution. If God chose to create human beings in his image and decided that the mechanism of evolution was an elegant way to accomplish that goal, who are we to say that is not the way,” he says. "

How are these views really any different from Intelligent Design creationism? They are clearly contradictory with the actual content of evolutionary theory.

If a presumed God sets out create an organism, say a "man in his own image" then this is teleological and is not really different from intelligent design. It sees humans as the inevitable result and goal of evolution. One might then ask, why did God prefer modern Homo sapiens sapiens over the other now extinct hominids such as H.s. neanderthalensis?

Key to Darwinian evolution is that variation is produced at random, and that traits are selected for, or against, by historically contingent environmental conditions. I see no way that you can defend natural selection as the process of evolution, and then turn and argue that it is the mechanism of a purposeful designer.

This would be like arguing that God provokes some mutation in a particular individual, and then may tinker with various environmental variables to make a trait adaptive.

This would take any real meaning out of the term "natural selection," rendering it a only illusion because of supernatural intervention.

The only view of god that is reconcilable with what we know of actual biological evolution is that of a Deist god who fine tuned the universe for life, and let natural processes take their course. Then this god, still imaginary as far as I am concerned, retired to watch his grand experiment without further intervention.

If I am wrong in my reasoning, please anyone, explain to me where.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Introduction to my blog...Interests and issues to be dealt with.

Hello all,
Welcome to The Humanist Observer. It has been for several weeks now that I have been thinking about beginning a blog. This has been inspired by the many excellent blogs that I have been reading and occasionally posting comments on. Now I am trying to figure out how to create links to them on my blog page, but I digress.

First among them is Massimo Pigluicci of Rationally Speaking.
I have been following the thoughts of Massimo for some time now in the pages of Free Inquiry, Skeptical Inquirer, Philosophy Now, his previous web site, and now his blog. Massimo has Ph.D.s in both evolutionary biology and philosophy. Wow! What an intellect! I really admire him, and I can't even finish my one graduate program (but again I digress!). First for his ability to balance all those different pursuits, as well as his intellectual commitments. Being a fan of Massimo can tell you a little bit about my interests.

However, my posts will certainly go in a different direction.

I am an archaeologist, and I hope to comment in the future on what archaeology can tell us about humans as socio-cultural and political beings in the past and present. Also another related issue is how archaeological topics are viewed from the perspective of the present. One of my pet-peeves is how things like aboriginal settlement of the Americas, or cannibalism, is often viewed through inappropriate ideological lenses of both the right and the left.

I have also been reading Alonzo Fyfe of the Atheist Ethicist.
Interest in his blog reflects another of my concerns. That of morality and ethics without God or religion. Alonzo is very lucid and puts alot of work and thought into his blogs. My posts on ethics and morality surely won't be as clear and logical as his, or as long! Maybe I can coax Alonzo over to my blog to post a comment to help me out on my moral reasoning. What do you say Alonzo? (However Alonzo, if you end up reading this, I surely understand that you put so much work into your blog you probably don't have much time to comment on others).

Well from the title of my blog and from the favorite blogs I have mentioned above you might infer that I am a skeptic, an atheist, and a humanist. And you would be right! I will probably post a variety things on criticisms of religion and defenses of atheism or more broadly a humanist worldview.

Also to be touched on are social and political issues. How can we ignore the big issues in America of today, the Iraq war and immigration? I will be approaching these issues from the left. Part of my humanist ethic is that of human universalism, and the anthropologist in me greatly respects cultural diversity as well. I refuse to see the "illegal alien" as less deserving of human rights and dignity. I think the rhetoric of the nativist right in this country indirectly, and sometimes more directly, sees your average Mexican "illegal alien" (or other nationality) as less deserving of human dignity based on nationality and legal status. Too little attention is paid to the larger economic structural issues of the world economy that compel people to leave their native country to risk life, limb, and racism in an attempt at bettering their human condition. Most "illegal aliens" are the salt of the earth in my opinion. Examples of the strength and dignity of the human spirit. Their recent demonstrations were inspiring!

Also related to this in the issue of Iraq is how we as Americans rather passively ignore the deaths and suffering of Iraqis. Forget Haditha (well don't actually forget it), what about the estimated 100,000+ that have died as a result of the initial air bombardment and subsequent invasion and occupation? Many on the right I think cry crocodile tears for the Iraqi victims of Saddam Hussein and now the insurgents. This is because it serves their emotional, political, and ideological needs to feel as morally superior American liberators. Honest attention paid to greater historical contexts would reveal U.S. government and corporate complicity in the crimes of Saddam Hussein. Not too much to be proud of there as an American.

Well there you have it friends, a little introduction to some of the issues I will be touching upon in The Humanist Observer. This should give you an idea of where I am coming from.