Two Responses to the Theist’s Guide

Earlier this month, Greta Christina published a piece on AlterNet, based on my essay "The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists", that listed things that would convince her of God's existence. She also repeated the challenge I posed to theists - prove that your beliefs are falsifiable by posting a corresponding list of things that would convince you to become an atheist.The AlterNet post got hundreds of comments, and netted a total of two responses. In this post, I'll briefly analyze them … [Read more...]

The Case for a Creator: Redefining Science

The Case for a Creator, Closing ThoughtsThe theory of evolution not only explains and unifies a vast range of scientific observations, it's given rise to an enormous, fruitful research program by predicting where we should look in order to find all kinds of phenomena of interest. One of the most famous examples is how Charles Darwin predicted that the earliest human ancestors would be found in Africa, which turned out to be 100% correct. Based on observing flowers from Madagascar, Darwin also … [Read more...]

What Is Freethought?

I've often used the terms "freethought" and "freethinker" on this blog, but I've never explicitly defined them. In this post, continuing my efforts at defining words that are important to the atheist movement, I want to speak briefly about how I use these terms and what I understand them to mean.As the Freedom from Religion Foundation defines it, a freethinker is a person who forms their opinions about religion based on reason, independently of established belief, tradition, or authority. I … [Read more...]

The Poisoned Cup of Theodicy

The world has seen and heard enough about the misery and destruction in Haiti this past week that I don't think I need to dwell on it. But I do want to take some time to address the perennial question of theodicy, which comes up in the aftermath of every disaster like this.To an atheist, for whom the Haiti quake was nothing more than the result of tectonic plates slipping - a disaster caused by impersonal natural forces and random chance - there is nothing to explain. The laws of the cosmos … [Read more...]

The Case for a Creator: A Universe Not Made For Us

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 7The final section of this chapter concerns Gonzalez's argument that the Earth is uniquely designed to make scientific discovery possible. His argument is that our planet is fine-tuned not just to allow the existence of life, but to allow us to find out important facts about the nature of the universe that wouldn't be possible to discover if we lived anywhere else. (As an aside, it's asinine for Strobel and his interviewees to celebrate how perfectly designed … [Read more...]

Cargo Cult Science

During World War II, American forces fighting in the Pacific set up bases on remote islands whose people had had very little prior contact with other civilizations. These people, with technology at a Stone Age level, were amazed by the strange visitors and the almost miraculous cargo they brought with them - chocolate, cigarettes, radio, steel tools. When the war ended and the soldiers left, some tribes went to desperate measures to summon them back, forming religions - cargo cults - which tried … [Read more...]

The Case for a Creator: Intellectual Incuriosity

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 5Chapter 5 is about the Big Bang and the cosmological argument, and we'll get to those. But I wanted to begin by highlighting an incredible, and telling, statement by Strobel in the opening paragraphs of the chapter.It seemed to me that the beginning of everything was a good place to start my investigation into whether the affirmative evidence of science points toward or away from a Creator. At the time, I wasn't particularly interested in internal Christian … [Read more...]

The Case for a Creator: Pursuing All Possibilities

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 2Before embarking on his interviews, Strobel makes a statement about his investigative strategy:In selecting these experts, I sought doctorate-level professors who have unquestioned expertise, are able to communicate in accessible language, and refuse to limit themselves only to the politically correct world of naturalism or materialism. After all, it wouldn't make sense to rule out any hypothesis at the outset. I wanted the freedom to pursue all … [Read more...]

How to Think Critically: Memory & Confabulation

The reliability of eyewitness accounts is one of the bedrock beliefs of our society. In ancient cultures - and in some modern cultures that still follow ancient laws - some crimes could only be proven by eyewitness testimonies. One of the most infamous examples was Pakistan's Hudood Ordinances, which mandated that allegations of rape could only be proven by four eyewitness accounts; otherwise, the woman was to be punished for making false accusations. Even in our supposedly more enlightened … [Read more...]

The 99 Percent Solution

One of the more tiresome parts of being an atheist is having to deal with preachers who drag out the old apologetic cliches and convince themselves that they're being clever. Just so is this piece from one Rev. Eric Strachan:[I] like to ask every atheist, "What percentage of the total knowledge that one could possibly acquire do you think you have?"Interestingly, most answer around five per cent or thereabout. "Think again," I say. "It's more likely to be around .05 per cent!"I then like … [Read more...]