Wired Article Response

The cover of November’s Wired magazine featured “The New Atheists.”

Obviously, there were going to be many letters in response… but were the letters angry? Were all the Wired editors told they’re going to hell?

Nope. They got very little brimstone. And more response than ever before. They talk about the reactions here.

They also posted every received letter here.

Some random comments from the page:

Since I’m a Christian and a life member of Mensa I was surprised to learn that religion was only for the ignorant.

Furthermore, we can also use science to prove that evolution is in fact impossible.

No one wants to agree with an asshole, even if he’s right.

Enjoy.


[tags]Wired, The New Atheists, atheist, atheism, Christian, God, religion, MENSA[/tags]

  • Logos

    Someone want to comment on what Wayne Watne said?

  • Karen

    Here’s what Watne said (not gonna touch the ‘biblical prophecy’ part!):

    I am a scientist, living on the west coast where the author states is “possibly the social group that is least likely among all Americans to be religious”, and I am a Christian. I am constantly amazed that “well educated” people in the sciences can overlook the simple facts of the discipline in which they themselves participate. The very foundation of the sciences are that, simply stated; 1) matter cannot be created, and 2) everything goes from order to disorder.

    To look at these concepts scientifically we need to know what “science” is. Science is looking at the evidence we have around us using each of our senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell) to investigate the world around us. Using the simple basics of their own discipline, scientists should be able to discern that there is matter present and if there is matter present, and matter cannot be created by nature or man, then the matter we can clearly observe, came from outside of the influence of man and nature. Furthermore, we can also use science to prove that evolution is in fact impossible. Science says everything goes from order to disorder, evolution says everything goes from disorder to order. Look at the world around us and show me evidence of anything that goes from disorder to order. Your body, home, car, clothes…they all start out orderly and with time become disorderly.

    I found this interesting, particularly in light of reading The God Delusion (which I’m about halfway through). In it, Dawkins continually returns to the point that via evolution everything goes from simple to complex – rather the opposite of Watne’s point, above, about order and disorder?

    Dawkins seems to be saying that evolution shows that life develops from the simplest, most basic unicellular forms through to the myriad, highly complex forms we see today. Positing that a vastly-more-complex entity (such as a supernatural god) is behind all life is illogical because it completely violates what we know about life and only introduces a much more difficult problem to solve, i.e. where did god come from?

    He uses the analogy of evolution being a “crane” (building structures very slowly from the ground up) versus creationism being a “skyhook” (having something dropped down summarily from “above”).

    So, does Watne’s point conflict with Dawkins’, agree with it, or is Watne going in a totally different direction? As a non-scientist, but highly interested in the discussion, I’d appreciate some enlightenment on this one.

  • Fooby

    Science says everything goes from order to disorder,

    No it doesn’t. See here:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CF/CF001.html

  • spin sycle

    actually, if he’s claiming to be scientist, Watne totally missed the steps of the scientific process. maybe he missed that day in science school. But you take your theory, test it, observe, make needed adjustments then repeat. It’s how we learn it’s how evolution has been proven over and over, not just by one branch of science but many.

  • http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~ludtke/prof/ cautiousmaniac

    Speaking as a scientist, and IMHO, the “foundation” of science is making observations about the world around us, to make theories that explain the facts that everyday normal people can observe. Everyone can see a rainbow, but scientists are supposed to explain why rainbows happen (water droplets are acting as prisms to split light into different nanometers of wavelength which our brains interpret as different colours).

    Now, Mr. Watne is correct in saying that matter can not be created, and that everything goes from order to disorder, but in both of these statements he flat out ignores energy, which is not a good idea.

    Basic chemistry and physiscs classes should teach you that energy and matter are conserved: that neither can be created or destroyed, just changed. If you boil water, the water doesn’t go away, it just becomes a vapor. However, this law breaks down when the laws of physics break down, such as at the event horizons of black holes and at the time immediately following the Big Bang. I’m no cosmologist so my wording here might be bad, but all energy ever in this universe started existing at the BB. Since then, there has been a conversion of energy to matter (as famously summed up by Einstein as E=MC2). This process might still be going on now: matter could be “popping” into existence out in space, as the universe continues to cool down and become less energetic. This doesn’t violate science.

    Similarly, entropy has been increasing since the beginning of time, so that in un-modified systems, order turns into disorder. However, this process can be stopped (albeit it temporarily) by the addition of energy. Our planet is constantly getting energy from two sources: radiation from the sun above us, and radiation from radioistopes in rocks below us. These two processes, that have been going on for ~4.5 gigayears, make life and its complexity able to exist. This doesn’t violate science.

    This, in essence, is the answer to your question, Karen. Watne’s point conflicts with Dawkins’s point because Dawkins incorporates more data. Dawkins is being a better scientist.

    Also, and I don’t want this to sound like an ad hominem, but from what I can figure out from the internets, Mr. Watne is a scientist who is concerned with managing natural resources, and helping groups make decisions about how much forests/rivers/such will be affected by the demands of civilization. It is somewhat frightening to me that a guy who is making decisions which affect nature seems to have such an awful understanding of science. But then again there are doctors who also don’t understand science, so…I’m just plain scared, often.

  • Fooby

    Now, Mr. Watne is correct in saying that matter can not be created, and that everything goes from order to disorder,

    I don’t think that’s correct though. See my link above. Order can increase in the local environment, like crystal growth. Consider the ecosystem of Earth to be the local environment of the solar system, whose entropy overall is increasing with time. So it’s deceptive to say everything goes to disorder. Also entropy and disorder are not exactly equivalent.

  • Karen

    Science says everything goes from order to disorder,

    No it doesn’t. See here:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CF/CF001.html

    Ah, the second law of thermodynamics. Well, I was looking for an excuse to educate myself, so this is as good a time as any. I kind of suspected that’s the old canard that Watne was trotting out, just because it’s so ubiquitous in creationist discussions. I even remember that being tossed out by pastors back in my fundy days (along with “no one can logically be an atheist!”), and me scratching my head going, “Huh?” ;-)

    Thanks for the web link, that was an easy and simple explanation. So, to use Watne’s analogy about your home getting messier and messier – all it takes is inserting some energy (i.e., elbow grease applied to a broom and a dust rag) to reverse the order-to-disorder trend. I’ll have to try and remember that one.

    It is somewhat frightening to me that a guy who is making decisions which affect nature seems to have such an awful understanding of science. But then again there are doctors who also don’t understand science, so…I’m just plain scared, often.

    Yeah, it is scary. Thanks for your explanation, cautious. Much appreciated!

  • cautiousmaniac

    Foob,

    It is indeed true that entropy and disorder are not necessarily equivalent. I shouldn’t berate someone-I-don’t-know’s science by being scientifically inaccurate myself.

  • Bobby

    So, does Watne’s point conflict with Dawkins’, agree with it, or is Watne going in a totally different direction?

    Although I am not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, I am pretty sure that Wayne thought he was putting up a good counter to Dawkins, in which he horribly failed. I would ask if it is utterly absurd to believe that God may have built from the ground up rather than from the sky down. I haven’t gotten to that part of The God Delusion yet so I’m sure I don’t fully understand what Dawkins crane theory is about but the question stands nonetheless.

    I was even more incensed to find the article was all point and no counter point. It was bad enough that it was about theology but even worse there was no balance to your article. It was no more than a thinly veiled argument for atheism.

    Boyd’s reply is exactly what I would expect to hear from a believer who isn’t really sure he is able to coherently defend what he believes. Some of us can read all the way through a Dawkins book without pitchin a fit.

    Why not apply some social science? More honey, less wasabi. Why not employ more empathy in the delivery of a message of logic and reason? To many believers the Bright proposal is this: give up blissful eternity in Heaven in exchange for Eternal Death. That’s a tough sell: abandon 72 virgins in exchange for…utter oblivion? Not exactly a sweet deal, is it? Some resistance should be expected. We need more than logically consistent empirical truth to gain ground in that fight. We need heart too. Soften the sales pitch a little; beat the swords into plowshares. It is a vast and painful sacrifice to give up one’s faith. .

    Dave makes a really good point though and I think we should discuss it a little. I know that the common form of evangelism is put forth in a very offensive manner, which is very counter-productive because the message is offensive enough already. But we cannot effectively discuss worldviews if I play Pat Robertson and you play Richard Dawkins. What a useless discussion!! Hilarious thought though. We have to find some common ground, like a genuine willingness to discover and understand truth. This must be our foundation to start from in order for you or I to get anywhere in our dialogue otherwise we will just spin our tires and create alot of smoke (and that just stinks)

    Please help me understand what he meant by the last line:

    Despite its validity, the notion of eternal death can be a little scary until you get used to it

  • Graham

    It is somewhat frightening to me that a guy who is making decisions which affect nature seems to have such an awful understanding of science. But then again there are doctors who also don’t understand science, so…I’m just plain scared, often.

    Please don’t dog on this guy. Really think clearly for a second. No one has to understand these law’s to do most work. You probably wouldn’t even need to understand the full implications of these laws if you were a rocket scientist. Maybe that is a little exaggerated, but really only scientist researching black holes in outerspace need to know this stuff in the depth that we are talking about. Respect the man’s job. I wouldn’t dog on some atheist saying he couldn’t do his job just because he didn’t understand something he doesn’t need to know. I am sure this guy plugs in E=MC^2 in to his calculator everyday to calculate stuff on resources. (sarcasm) Give him a break.
    I am a Christian and I want to throw out there that I believe that the Big Bang could have happened and in fact, with really only one change, the BB completely works with the idea of God. Let us not just throw God out of the window for something that doesn’t disprove Him. Just because the BB theory isn’t creationism as we humans see it doesn’t mean that God is only on the creationism side and God is not on the BB side of things.
    So you’re probably wondering if I am retarded and that is just because I haven’t gotten to explain it yet, but first I would like to say that I could be wrong, I could have already said something wrong, I am willing to admit I was wrong and I am open for discussion.
    So, I saw some discussion earlier about:

    but all energy ever in this universe started existing at the BB.

    However, this law breaks down when the laws of physics break down, such as at the event horizons of black holes and at the time immediately following the Big Bang.

    Science says everything goes from order to disorder

    order turns into disorder. However, this process can be stopped (albeit it temporarily) by the addition of energy.

    -Yes, energy/work can stop and reverse disorder.

    Order can increase in the local environment, like crystal growth.

    -In this situation, the crystals are usually under pressure and/or temperature, which is adding work/energy to the system.

    So, this is what I say:
    In the beginning I believe that something had to even start the BB. Why do we never look at what started the BB. We can never explain that. Also, we always say since we can’t explain how God got there; we can’t believe there is a God. Well, how did the BB get there? We can’t answer that either, so should we throw that out? And even if you can explain one more step before the BB of how it came to be, you will always run into the problem of explaining how that step came to be. Example: Where did the BB come from? It came from energy, which we know can be transformed into mass. Well, now where did the energy come from? I don’t know but I guess someone could say it came from a black hole. Then where did the black hole come from and where did the energy come from in the black hole? Basically at this point you are calling the black hole god, in a sense. (The last sentence might not make the most sense but just a thought)
    Now, I think that God was behind the scenes of the BB or at least it is a possibility, and this means that Evolution with an adjustment (God being behind the scenes of the BB) does not disprove that there is a God. I think He could have created the original energy or mass or whatever that started the BB.
    Now that brings us to the next point. I think, I am not sure, but I think He had to be there through the whole evolution process.
    Yes, everything does not go to disorder. Yes, everything does go to disorder if work/energy is not put into the system. So, in our situation we have this energy ball thing at the beginning of the BB, well just because we have a lot of energy doesn’t mean that it will necessarily go to order. But just like the work equation, work=force*distance, the force has to be parallel to the distance moved. It has to be directed in the right direction to get work. Also, just like in all the models that are shown to describe this law, you can see that work doing the opposite task can speed up the process of going to disorder. The law doesn’t say that things have to go to order when energy is present, but they are able to.
    Therefore, I suggest that God not only has to at least create the energy/mass ball, but also has to be there directing everything so that these complex things can be made. As an example of the complexity of things, there is the amazing fact that there are an estimated 100 billion neurons in the brain or let us look at the amazing complexity of DNA which writes the plan and operation for our whole body.
    Through all this I am not saying that pure creationism is not right, I just don’t think we can tell if it is right or not. Also, to summarize I think evolution does not disprove that there is a God.


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