It’s Straw Men All the Way Down

http://creationtoday.org/strawman-arguments-s03e28/

I’ve decided, whether this leads to unjustified promotion or not (they will get at LEAST 2 clicks from my blog if I link them!), I will include the reference at the top of each entry.

I will clarify that a Straw Man argument is the fallacy of misrepresenting the argument of the person with whom you disagree. Atheists throw this around when speaking about religious people, and religious people throw this around when speaking about atheists. In the linked video, though, I think they take the meta game up (down?) one more level; if you are going to dedicate an entire episode to straw man arguments, you should avoid making them. Or maybe I am the crazy one; maybe saying “Can you believe these jerks with their unfair straw man arguments? Well, here is us using straw man arguments against them!” is what normal people consider a prudent option.

I know I have made several straw man arguments; I do not do so intentionally. As I grow and mature, I realize that when approaching the same place from two totally differing directions, two people will not make the same assumptions. Don’t get hung up on assumptions; we minimize it, but as humans, we make them. As I continue to write, and to think, I make a strong personal effort towards seeing where the opposing party is coming from. This is not easy, and that is why so many people do not even try.

The episode itself like to take a popular artistic image with some added dialog. Jesus is knocking on the door of a (presumed) non-believer, with the following conversation superimposed:

Jesus knocks on the door.
Other: “What do you want?”
Jesus: “To save you!”
Other: “From what?”
Jesus: “From what I’ll do to you if you don’t let me save you.”

Obviously, this is making fun of the nearly universal doctrine that if you do not believe in our omnipresent, loving God, you will be sent to hell (by, one assumes, that same God). From the outside, it is easy for (almost) anyone to understand what the atheist/commoner sees here. You must believe in God, or you go to Hell. This is a core doctrine.

From a Christian standpoint, the issue is not nearly so simple. First, obviously, to them it is a sin (in fact breaching one of the cardinal Three Commandments) to deny God, or worship other gods. Many outside of the Christian faith are not aware of the first three commandments, mind, or don’t understand that these are held to a somewhat higher standard than the following seven. So by disrespecting God, you are deserving of judgment by God. It is a narrow cable you balance upon, though, for only God has the right to judge. As per Matthew 7:1-3, judge not lest ye be judged. You will be judged by the same criteria that you have judged others by.

Since we are judging by the first three commandments, I believe it is fair for me to hold you accountable, Eric Hovind, and you, Ken Ham, for your Ark Encounter, Genesis movie, and especially (I would like to emphasize this as much as I am able) the Creation Museum . The second commandment is as follows: You shall not create for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

This is a very interesting cross-religion study, by the by. In Islam, this is a core doctrine; if you go to an Islamic School or Academy in the west, you will see the art and architecture is very abstract. This is an illustration of the fact that those in Islam take the ten commandments very, very seriously, whereas even the most wary Christian makes (admittedly minor) breaches of the commandments nearly daily. The Creation Museum, Ark Encounter, and The Genesis Movie are all dangerously popular, and to some garner more respect even than God, Himself. Mr Ham, and those like you, I would recommend caution, for your God is a jealous God. You may revere him above all else, but for more casual Christians… Have you led them astray?

Ah, sorry, I found myself distracted. Where was I? Right, Matthew 7:1-3. I believe, if I believed that God Himself handed down these words, He intended them to be a blacksmith of sorts, tempering the argument of both sides. The Christian fundamentalists who often (and explicitly, in the linked video) say that judging those who have done wrong is not only just but justified is tempered, and the atheists who target them, tempered the same.

It may seem like I am judging, and am thus opening myself to my own argument. I am, certainly, to a degree, though I will admit that I often find myself in serious violation of the ten commandments, and am not worried about it overmuch. In this case, though, I will leave myself open to some level of backlash to prove a point. The argument is, too often, not about substance, it is about throwing decontextualized quotations at each other, and hoping that somehow they will make a difference. I know what I am saying here probably won’t make a difference, but I would like to at least try to elevate the discourse. In the linked video, a meme-style image was used to attack Christian belief, and they responded in kind. To the playground-politics-minded among you, I will say that this adds up to a slap fight, but one in which the potential collateral damage is large. To the more worldly among my users, permit me a quote from a personal hero: “An eye for an eye will only leave the world blind.”

For the religious among my readers, please think about your own words, and how they follow the precepts of your personal deity, be he God, Jesus, or the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses. I won’t even be upset if the Christians among you ignore the Old Testament rules, and stick more closely to following the Golden Rule. It’s cool.

To the non-theist readers, please respect the other side as much as you would respect someone else who is on your side. We are all humans, we all love and live and seek the approval of our peers. You will no more win the theistic to your side with derisive arguments than they will win you to their side with the same.

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Video Games, the Media, and Perceived Sexism

The article I am referencing:

http://www.theverge.com/gaming/2014/9/29/6862757/dota-2-the-1000-hour-review

I’ve posted rants before about the way that chauvinism and outright misogyny are part and parcel of online games, and one would think that focusing on the community of players would give the popular media plenty enough to do without focusing on game design itself. No, I am not going to just brush it under the carpet, here; game design often focuses on making female characters fit a mold that could really, truly, only be defined as sexist.

Recently, though, another person has stepped onto the internet and offended the wider group. People are up in arms about it, though even with a slightly level head, it is easy to see that there has been both some level of dishonesty and some level of disingenuousness. The catalyst, in this case, was a review of Dota 2 that for the most part was incredibly fair and informative. The issue taken by gamers was one line, almost offhanded, and not dwelled on by the writer himself; the line in question basically calls the game sexist. Further, for those who have played it, a screenshot of the Queen of Pain character was included as proof of this.

Now, the reviewer himself was being somewhat unfair; I would say that Luna and Legion Commander, at the least, are some of the most fair depictions of females in modern games. Add to that the fact that you are able to use custom costumes in the game and you have to understand that much of the sexism, as I mentioned in my first paragraph, is in the hands of the community more than in the hands of the game. In fact, going over most of the other characters, one finds that not only do females make up some of the most powerful and popular characters in all of Dota 2 (Anyone who tells me that a late game Drow Ranger is not in their top 5 most terrifying heroes list has not played against a late game Drow Ranger).

As I just mentioned, Drow Ranger is very formidable, and Mirana is an incredibly popular and versatile character. Legion Commander is fully armored, strength class, and is capable of going 1v1 against almost any hero in the game with only basic foresight. Luna is one of the highest damage characters in all of Dota, up there with Medusa, also a nonsexualized character, and Luna wears full armor. There isn’t even the slightest hint of cleavage.

The Templar Assassin, another formidable carry character (Carry being the term applied to a set of heroes that is expected to ‘carry’ you to victory) is nearly fully clothed, though there is some cleavage shown. She is no simpering girl, though, no character that the male characters are expected to roll over. She has powerful abilities that make her dangerous at every point in the game, from the first exchange of blows to the eventual destruction of the ancient.

Phantom Assassin, the highest single target damage carry in the entire game, is also fully clothed and armored, wearing a formidable breast plate, and carrying foreboding weaponry. She has the ability to completely change the tide of a losing game by destroying the opposing carries in 1 or 2 hits, no matter their HP. I can say with honesty, I have been in a winning position late game, feeling nigh indestructible, to be humbled by two swipes of the Phantom Assassin’s blade.

I could keep going, with heroes such as Spectre (Another carry whose ability to confuse the enemy is unmatched), Naga Siren (Her ability to control the flow of battle makes her valuable in any role), Windranger, Enchantress, Death Prophet, all powerful in their specific area. There are support females (characters whose primary purpose is not to carry you to victory, but to control the flow of the game, allowing their carries to do what they were designed to do), but they are not some passive girls, waiting for men to save them. Crystal Maiden (mentioned specifically in the offending article) has the highest damage ultimate ability in the game, and has nearly unmatched ability to control the movement of her opponents, stunning them and preventing them from fleeing. There is Lina, a character (descriptively) categorized as Nuker; everything about her is designed to do damage. Vengeful Spirit, whose primary abilities save her team from harm or initiate combat favorably for your team.

So what is the point of this rant on the females of Dota 2? Well, first, I wanted to point out that you can find flaw in anything. I can pick one character in a game (Queen of Pain, as per the article that set this off) and say that this represents everything. That is being unfair, and I think the article was being, at best, casually unfair to the developers of Dota.

The gamers, though, and their reaction, are being unfair to the reviewer. They are up in arms, some of them saying that the whole point of mentioning the sexist themes of some characters was the writer attempting “click-bait”, getting people to come read his review when they otherwise wouldn’t. That is unfair, and I think they could put down their pitchforks and torches, and say, with due respect “I think that sentence in your review was unfair. Why did you mention it?”

The thing is, for that sentence to be click-bait, it would need a bit more prominence than it has. I won’t lie, I heard about the article in question before I read it, and when I sat down to read it, I was prepared to read a diatribe about the evils of all men, the sexism of Dota 2 on full show, stripped naked for all to see. That is not what I got; what I read instead was almost a love letter to Dota, explaining patiently all that was good about it, but mentioning that it has its flaws. The line that has gamers up in arms is just that; a line. The inclusion of a picture of the Queen of Pain was likely editorial, and I would be comfortable giving the benefit of a doubt; the writer may not have intended its inclusion at all. In that way, it could be said to be click-bait.

The point is this; we all need to step back and avoid knee-jerk reactions. Many people in the comments thread of the article in question had not read it, and in protest would never read it (they won’t get my ad-revenue! All 1.5 cents of it! That’ll show ’em!!). I think if they read it and stepped back a hair, they could probably approach it with a more level head.

But like anything in the world, this issue is not purely black and white. The reviewer needn’t have included the line about sexism, but the gamers needn’t have raised their pitchforks and torches.

I think if you are looking for misogyny in game design, Dota 2 is about the last place to start looking; the female characters are for the most part fully and completely covered, and represent some of the most powerful mechanics in the game. But if you want to find a mob that will get up in arms about anything, the MOBA community is where you will look. In fact, the backlash from this article has acted like a magnifying chamber; I would never have heard of it, nor written about it, had I not come across a violent mob, and asked to what purpose were their pitchforks?

I am ok if you attack the community. I mean, it is a battle you can’t win, the community is far too large to paint with one brush. If you call them sexist, one thousand SJWs will come to the fore. If you look at them from outside, the noisy, virulent minority will be your experience.

But when a developer makes fully clothed women the most powerful characters in their game, maybe avoid calling the game sexist? There are better targets for that kind of thing. That’s all I’m really trying to say here.

PhD Scientists say…

So I thought that “You weren’t there,” was the exclamation that most thoroughly defined the Creationist denial of science, but I have recently been proven wrong. “You weren’t there,” is kids’ stuff, the adult version is “PhD Scientists say…”

What do I mean by that? Well, “Here’s the research we are doing at Liberty University. They don’t know about E. Coli like we do at Liberty University. In fact, we are doing cutting edge research at Liberty University. People talk about E. Coli when they don’t know about E. Coli like we do at Liberty University. Did I mention Liberty University? I’m from Liberty University.” -Andrew Fabich, PhD, Microbioligist, Liberty University

Now, I hadn’t heard of Liberty University, but the name sounds vaguely Christian. Did I say vaguely? I meant “Liberty University is a Christian University in Virginia.” Well, Creationists giving other Creationists PhDs to prove non-Creationists wrong? I am shaking in my boots, how can we fight this wave of SCIENCE rolling over us?

Now, I do have to be fair here, they do know a lot about Biology. They do expect you to be able to defend Creationist science when they hand you that PhD, but (and this is them talking): “It is a pre-suppositional issue.” That’s right, Creationists are arguing that evolutionists (I do so hate to use that word…) have an answer in their head before they go to work; that answer being that evolution is true. And because they believe that evolution is true, they make the math fit the conclusion, therefore the science is all bad right from the start.

Does that sound familiar? It may, because that is an exact mirror image of what I wrote about Noah’s ark; science is easy when you know the answer going in. But they themselves paint it out to be a lie; in the same breath that they point out that evolution is a “pre-suppositional issue”, they also state that main stream biologists are always changing the rules. Why is that so significant? Because “The Rules” in this case is a synonym for “The Answer.” If the answer is constantly changing, we obviously don’t hold to “the answer”, now, do we?

Our answer is a changing target that moves based on evidence. One thing that defines modern science is that it is willing to admit that it is incorrect. When a Creationist Biologist says “Well, in this widely accepted 1993 paper, scientists got it horribly wrong”, the main stream answer is “That paper was flawed, and here are the 8 peer reviews that pointed out the flaws. Further, if that is not good enough, here are 67 studies posted since that time that come to a different conclusion. Also, here are 43 other papers that come at it from a different angle. And here are 7 independent places that collect evidence based on the metrics outlined, and here are the ways they agree.”

Actually, while I was thinking about this, I have FINALLY understood how any *thinking* modern Christian could possibly arrive at the conclusion that the Bible is without contradiction. They simply don’t know what a contradiction is! It is so simple! (The files are *in* the computer!) It should have occurred to me the minute I heard “Mainstream scientists have a presuppositional bias,” followed by “But the answer keeps changing!” Within one minute, you can hear a person holding a PhD contradict themselves twice without blinking. (And you can see it in action here: http://creationtoday.org/do-creation-scientists-have-the-answers-s03e05/  and in addition to that, you can watch a man say Liberty University 60 times in 50 seconds! What fun! And, before any of that, you can see two grown men say PhD Scientists repeatedly in casual conversation, without any clue what makes a PhD… Or a Scientist.)

The thing is, evolution is not a single process, and no one has ever said evolution could be described as “Right now I have a single celled organism, oh wait! IT IS NOW MULTICELLULAR WITH A SKELETON WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?!” Richard Dawkins described it far better than I ever could, from the perspective of a biologist (people sometimes forget that Dawkins’ profession is biology, not Christian bashing), as I am not a biologist. In any case, I would recommend that Creationists take a look into what evolution actually *is* before they start saying it is a load of cow dung. Here’s the thing though… Evolution is not simple. Dawkins, one man, has written 11 books describing evolution, and even that is but a small fraction of what marks a concept “evolution”.

The part that hurts me the most is the willful academic dishonesty among so many Creation scientists. “That’s not evolution,” they will say “That is adaptation,” or “That is survival of the fittest.” I will chalk this one up to bariminologists, I think, as Creationists believe that one “kind” cannot become another “kind.” Mind, it is important to note that one “kind” is bird. “Oh, over 3,000 generations it lost its wings, its legs grew longer, it changed its beak size, and grew to ten times the size it used to be? That’s not evolution, it is still a bird, duh!”

The problem is this: Dr Andrew Fabich stated in the very video linked above that “I have been studying E. Coli for 10 years, and I have seen adaptation, but nothing that would count as evolution.” Ok, your E. Coli have adapted better to survive in their current environment… HOW IS THAT NOT EVOLUTION?! I just don’t understand what Creationists think evolution is, because after reading several books and watching hundreds of hours of Creationist videos, I am still not entirely certain. The other thing (and I have mentioned this before) is that this respectable PhD has effectively stated “I didn’t see evolution in 10 years, therefore there is no evolution. Q.E.D.” Even under your incredibly limited worldview, Dr Fabich, you have studied E. Coli for 0.17% of human history (6000 years), and a score of 0.17% on an exam is, last I checked, not a passing grade. You have studied it for 3.33x(10^-7)% (0.0000003%, give or take a zero, I did the math suuuper lazily) of the evolutionary history of life as understood by mainstream science. In fact, if you could prove mainstream science wrong, we could move the slider for the history of life — mainstream science may have pride, but they will admit they were wrong in the face of evidence.

I will leave you with one last quote about presuppositional evidence that shoots itself in the foot so hard it … I was going to say hurts, but that makes too much sense. Whatever.

Georgia Purdom, PhD, stated that “Like it says in Romans chapter 1, if they just looked at the evidence, everyone would believe in God.” Right, the Bible states “The evidence proves God,” therefore we don’t actually need to do any work, that statement (obviously) stands on its own and needs no verification.

So why this rant? And why is it important to point out “PhD scientists say…”?

Well, unless you check from whence their PhD comes from, you have no idea if they are actually qualified. You also have to check what kinds of papers they have published. Hell, some of them publish some very good, useful science; this is a case of the means outweighing the ends, because to them the ends are always the exact same — but sometimes, I can’t even argue with how they got there, I can only argue with their conclusions. Luckily for me, much smarter people than me are comfortable debating the conclusion with a rock-solid foundation of evidence; all of what I say is hearsay, and merely the opinion of someone who is worried about the state of scientific discourse.

In any case, watch out for “PhD scientists say…”

And also, “Liberty University is a University about Liberty and University-ness. Also, Liberty University.”

The Various Forms of Objective Morality

Based on the title of this blog post, I am sure you can guess that I am a ton of fun at parties!

It has been said, by various people, of various factions, and of varying backgrounds, that the tenets of morality exist beyond the realm of science. In fact, some have said that morality exists EXCLUSIVELY within the realm of religion. I have been told by those of strong religious backgrounds that atheism, and by extension, atheists have absolutely nothing to say on the topic of morality.

I am here to dispel that notion, because I think it is unfair.

First of all, atheism itself is not a “world view”. It is a view on religion, and there is no reason to extend it beyond that. For some reason, people of religion have said that since religion gives them their views on morality, atheism takes views of morality away, as though atheism covers the same ground religion does. It does not; atheism, while certainly a view on religion, is not a branch of religion as one who is religious might define it. To give a practical example, among Christians, there are many sects. Many of the sects of religions believe different things. Well, atheism, when compared to this form of Christianity, there are atheists who believe any wide number of things.

So where does morality come from? One who is religious might say The Bible, though having read only two parts of it for their reference material (Exodus 20, in which the ten commandments are laid out, or from “The Golden Rule”). These are considered valid forms of reference material because these moral tenets were provided by God, who defines morality.

Why does God get to define morality? I mean, if one reads the full Old Testament, one finds incredible violence, and wanton breaches of the Ten Commandments by those that God himself has identified as Just and Righteous. So, by reading the Old Testament, we find that God himself puts little stock by his own moral tenets. I mean, reading the book of Judges, one finds that God commands (and not just once) that His own people slaughter the men, children, livestock, take the women as slaves. destroy property.

God, the being who (by theistic definition) defines morality, broke… How many commandments? Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods, (presumably) thou shalt not commit adultery (why else would only the women be taken?). To me, this is not OK, but perhaps I am the crazy one.

So I’ve covered Western Theistic Morality. What other types of objective morality are there?

There is scientific objective morality. I will warn you, it is not ‘romantic’. It was not laid down by a loving creator. This is purely fact-based reasoning for why non-theistic persons would express strong moral reasoning.

The reason a non-theistic person might display morality is for reasons of the principle of “reciprocal morality.” This is discussed in some depth by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, and by Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape. The very short version is that I do something nice for someone else in the hopes that someone else will do something nice for me. Like I said, this is hardly a romantic notion, but it works in the form of reasoned morality.

But why might science say we should be moral at all? Well, that comes down to the Biological Imperative. Our entire goal, as living organisms, is to pass our genes onto the next generation, and by doing so survive into immortality through the proxy of our offspring. Let’s give a large-scale real world example, then:

We are on the brink of war, The United States and China are facing off in a Nuclear Standoff. I control the power to press the button for USA, and Tsz-Chung holds the button for China. If I press the button first, I am guaranteed a better outcome than China, and if Tsz-Chung presses the button first, China will come out ahead. The moral option, of course, is for both of us to not press the button, allowing for maximum survival on both sides (holy shit, I just accidentally recreated the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Neat.).

Objective morality states that to maximize my gene’s chances of passing to my offspring is for me to survive, and the same is true for Tsz-Chung. If Tsz-Chung presses the button, there is a chance USA will retaliate, and he will die. If I press the button, there is a chance China will retaliate, and I will die. In either case, there is a chance that the genes of the person holding the button pass on.

What is the best case scenario for me, the button holder? I do not press the button, for that would reduce my chances of passing along my genetic material. The same is true for Tsz-Chung.

Morally speaking, using theistic morality, I should do unto him as he would do unto me. Simple, the Golden Rule, and neither presses the button.

Speaking from a non-theistic morality, I want to maximize my chances of survival, and that maximizes Tsz-Chung’s chances for survival.

Both have the same outcome, but non-theistic morality does not require a supernatural arbitrator.

It will likely never happen, but consider this scenario:

Chuck says “If it weren’t for God, I would kill Mark.”

Science proves that God doesn’t exist.

Chuck kills Mark.

The problem with any moral framework that requires a “soft” (in this case, removable) underpinnings is prone to failure.

Non-theistic morality has a soft underpinning, there is some considerations to make there. If someone does not want to be alive, the biological imperative no longer applies. That is a weakness, but there are religious people who kill or steal, so even the perfect moral framework does not qualify as a prison, forcing adherents to make certain decisions. There is nothing that can FORCE a person to be moral.

The question is this: Do I require objective reasons for morality? Personally, I do not. I know I like to be happy, and do not like to be sad. I assume others, for the most part, feel similarly. If I can be happy without making others sad, and others can be happy without making me sad, everyone wins, because we all get to be happy. To me, it seems simple.

Why is morality such a complicated question?

The thing is that humans are complicated. There might be 50 things that could make a person happy. Some of those might make someone else sad. I’d say, as a moral adviser, that we simply take the things that make us happy without making others sad, and stick to those. We ignore the things that make others sad.

If only the world were so simple…

To be fair, The Golden Rule is a very good moral guideline. I do not have to believe in the God of Abraham to see that. Why should I?

By that same token, I respect the precepts of Jainism perhaps even more. The core of Jainism is basically “You shall not, through action or inaction, cause harm to any other living being.” Yes, that requires vegetarianism (which I obviously am not), but I respect it a great deal as a supreme moral code.

Justice, Fairness, and Equality for All

This is going to be a very personal post. Usually, my blog post have something that initiates them; a particular quote or article, a conversation I’ve had with someone, or something I read in passing–but to the best of my memory, this is something that came to me independently. I am going to talk, specifically, about why I ended up leaving the Church, and why my relationship with God, if I can be said to have a relationship at all, is strained beyond the breaking point at best, and broken beyond repair at worst. People have asked if I know the root cause of my depression, I tell them no, but only because the root cause is so personal. Well, people seem to enjoy reading my insights, so it is time to bring it all to light.

The world is a place that is broken, ruled over by (as I have been told so many times) a loving God. I cannot believe that we are ruled over by a loving God, I just can’t.

A homeless woman, a prostitute, addicted to drugs and infected by AIDS gets pregnant. The prior sentence depicts a situation that is too common. For the purposes of widening the scope, you can even clear the AIDS infection, we’ll just stick to the drug addiction.

Her child is born, addicted to the same drugs as her mother, born to a mother who does not have the means to take care of the child, and the child lives a short life of incredible suffering. A year or two, maybe even more if she is found and cared for by someone in a better position, but even then the child suffers to long lasting effects of withdrawal. You can’t exactly pump a child full of methadone, can you? Or, let’s say the mother is not addicted to drugs, but has AIDS. There is nothing for the child, nothing yet, that will give her a life expectancy longer than 25 years. Part of the life this child will live is the suffering that comes due to the myriad cancers and infections suffered by late-term AIDS sufferers.

What did this child do to deserve this life? If you believe that God created the world according to His will, then you believe that he created the world allowing for a mother or a father to visit unfair, unjust, horrible lives upon their children — even if the mother or father in question are removed. Again, there is nothing you can do for a child infected with HIV.

When discussing this with my more religious peers, I have been informed that it is a function of “the sins of the father visited upon the son.” Now, depending on the part of the Bible you are drawing from, this may in fact be God’s will. In the book of Exodus, in various places, it says the iniquity of the father shall be visited upon the son, unto the third and fourth generation. In the book of Deuteronomy, however, it states that the son shall not be put to death for the sins of the father, nor the father for the son. Every man shall be put to death for his own sin. (As an interesting aside, tradition states that Deuteronomy and Exodus were written by the same hand [historians obviously disagree], so Christians who hold to Mosaic scholarship should find it odd that these two books written by the same hand set down rules that directly contradict each other.)

Let’s use another example, then. In Africa, among many people, it is a widely held belief that there is a cure for AIDS! Why does the whole world not know of this, not sing its praises to the heavens?! Well, that’s because the cure is obviously not a cure at all — the purported “cure” is to have sex with a virgin. Let the horror of that sink in for a minute, it’s ok, I’ll wait. Every time I think about this, I have to just stop, close my eyes, and take a steadying breath, because the horror of it cannot fully be comprehended; not by me, not by you. Virgins are kidnapped and violently raped, they are infected with AIDS, the male obviously not cured. And in the truly horrific times when this results in a pregnancy, there is a very high chance the child will end up with an infection as well. Two lives ruined, pointlessly, senselessly, all for the price of one.

If you believe God created the world, if He set down the rules and laws that govern every part of this world, then he allowed a disease like AIDS to pass from father to mother to child. The child, who is obviously free of sin, has had the iniquities of the father passed into him. Where is the justice? Where is the love? Does God not spare a thought for these children?

To clarify, my focus here is the children, for you cannot even through terrible logic say they are filled with sin. When a woman is raped, I have heard all of the worst justifications (and justifications is the only word I can think to describe them). Well, the woman has sinned, and is not under God’s protection. Or man is given ultimate free will, and that free will can be used to destroy the life of another. This is the Christian equivalent of “She deserved it,” and the thought of anyone thinking these things almost makes me fly into a black rage. But even if you do not justify it, even if you agree that it is a senseless crime, a pointless act of destruction, God has set nothing down to stop it.

“What about the 10 commandments?!” you shout, indignantly, hypothetical reader. Well, they certainly set down punishments for those that have committed these heinous crimes, I won’t deny it. I am going to give a quote that gets thrown around Internet forums often enough, in regards to punishing rapists: “You can’t un-rape her.”

The rapist, the father, could be killed, and sent to the deepest pit in Hell, the worst torture in the universe visited upon him, for all eternity — does that fix what has been done to the woman who has been raped? No, God has done NOTHING to ease her suffering, the suffering of her potential child.

Give me a moment to steady myself, and we’ll continue on to another topic. I will come back to the sins of the father, but I can’t keep writing about it at this very second, it hurts me too much to think about for too long.

Satan. Now here’s an interesting one. Satan exists, I am told by many Christian speakers, and he is fighting to steal souls from God. He tempts man into terrible deeds with false promises. Why does Satan exist? God is omnipotent, he could literally snap his fingers and Satan would be removed from existence. He could snap his fingers and Satan would NEVER HAVE EXISTED.

So why is this another sticking point for me? I had a conversation about this with a person who has studied religion much more deeply and formally than me, and I could not get a satisfactory answer — or rather, an answer that satisfied me. There was vague allusions to free will, but that doesn’t really answer the question, does it? In the Gospel of Luke, Satan requests permission (in some translation demands permission) to sift Simon, as a farmer sifts wheat from chaff. The permission is granted! God allows Satan to take a crack at Simon, for the purposes of testing him!

Ignoring the fact that making a bet with a being who literally knows the outcome before the bet is made shows a stunning lack of foresight on Satan’s part, I would like to think about this for a second. Our loving God sets upon Simon the second most evil being in existence (Well, Satan is the Prince of Evil, making God the King) on one of his closest subjects, just to see if he was up to par? Are those the actions of someone of endless love? Add to that the fact that anyone who falls for the schemes of Satan is sent to burn for all eternity in the Pit, and you have a situation that a loving parent would never subject a child to.

Allow me to draw a more human parallel. Your child has asked for a puppy, and like any prudent parent you ask yourself if the child really has the maturity to handle this level of responsibility. Nothing in your experience allows you to answer the question clearly, so you come up with a simple test; you put your child in a room with an untrained dog, alone, and close the door. You’ll come back in a few days, and see how the child is doing. If the child is doing well, he or she can have a puppy, because she has survived a test even more difficult than the owning of a puppy. If the dog kills the child, well, the child did not deserve a puppy.

The above illustration is absurd, but that is what God did to Simon. In fact, that is what God (presumably) does to all of humanity on a day-to-day basis. If Satan exists, and Satan tempts us, and the punishment for answering Satan’s call is eternity in the pit, that is what God has done to all of us. An eternally loving, an eternally just, holy God. A God that could, if he is truly omnipotent, snap his fingers and remove Satan from the world.

Ok, I have made my point with regards to Satan. I think I am ready to go back to the sins of the father.

Let’s go back to Genesis.

On the sixth day (we are going to go by the chronology of Genesis chapter 1, as opposed to the DIRECT CONTRADICTION of Genesis chapter 2, which states that animals were created after man) God created Man, and it was good. He created man in the Garden, with a single instruction, that they not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Ah, but here is Satan, coming to the fore, right in the beginning, tempting Eve into eating of the Tree. Then Adam, of course, eats of it as well, and God punishes both Adam and Eve by cutting them off from paradise, and their children from paradise, and their children’s children. But here’s the funny thing; God knows everything that is, everything that was, (and this part is important) and everything that will be. When God created Adam and Eve, one presumes he knew they would eat of the Tree, having been tempted by Satan.

God created them, man and woman, knowing that he would be condemning them to an unimaginable term in the Pit, to torture, to death. In fact, if one takes the word of the Gospels as Gospel, one is forced to understand that all humans from Adam onward to Jesus were similarly condemned. In fact, if you believe in Original Sin (primarily espoused by the Catholic faith), you believe that anyone not baptized into the Church is subjected to eternity in the Pit, because Adam and Eve ate the apple as per Satan’s tempting. That is, our God who loves us and loves all people, and is infinitely Just, created humans knowing we would eat of the tree, fail, and then condemned ALL OF HUMANKIND to an eternity in the pit, knowingly, before we were even a twinkle in our father’s eye. The only people spared his wrath are those that swear fealty to him in their hearts, and worship. That is not love, that is narcissism, that is ego, that is a thousand negative emotions, that is justice so cruel and so lacking, even the most conscience-barren of all humans could, if they cared to look, would think that this is horror beyond mortal horror. But God loves us, unconditionally? I do not see this love, I do not feel this love, I do not understand how this could possibly be considered a loving God.

“But,” you interject once more, hypothetical reader, “He sent his only begotten Son to redeem our sins.” Ah, friend, I am glad you brought that up, because that was (conveniently) my next point. First, our infinitely forgiving God could not forgive our sins with a word? With a thought? He had to subject his only son to horrible torture, to three days in the pits of Hell, before he could forgive our sins — and even with that, our unconditionally loving God did not forgive us all, for as is stated in Matthew chapter 7:21, “Not all who call on my name shall be saved.” God sent his only begotten son to redeem our sins, but even then, “Conditions apply.” (Worth noting that in his epistles, Peter states that “All who believe on Jesus shall be saved,” but there are still people out there who say the Bible is without contradiction. [Romans 10:13])

God could not even forgive without the death of his Son. He, who is omnipotent, did have have the POWER to forgive us without a blood sacrifice, for as it is said in the Old Testament (Hebrews 9:22), “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” These are the words of an unconditionally loving Father, are they? “Chucky made me mad yesterday, so I have to kill my firstborn son to keep myself from killing Chucky.” Turn that last sentence over in your head a few times.

What does that sound like? Someone who says “I have condemned you all to the Pit until I decide to sacrifice my own son to myself,” does not sound like a loving parent, does He? And that brings up another point; why did he wait so long to sacrifice his own son, our loving and omnipotent God? If you take the age of the Earth according to YEC, he condemned every human being (save for a select few who were raised bodily to Heaven) to hell for TWO THIRDS of all of history, before he was like “Hmm… I feel like I forgot to do something… SHIT! I was supposed to sacrifice my own son to myself like 3000 years ago! SHITSHITSHITSHIT! The humans are gonna be so pissed.” Then, 2000 years later, that same God gets the luxury to go “Phew, they didn’t even notice. In fact, they still think I am all loving, omnipotent, and watching over them. Heheheh… Suckers.”

If you take into account the age of Humankind according to science (the age varies, but it is certainly in the hundreds of thousands of years or more, depending on whether you are picky about Homo Sapien vs Homo Habilis, etc) then God waited for some 99.7% of human history before he decided to forgive our sins. Our omnipotent, all loving Father.

And here I am, being asked by some, demanded by other, to believe in this God? To believe in this God or I, too, will be condemned to the Pit. The God who loves me, but also knows in his heart that my soul shall be consigned to eternal torture? The God who is infinitely forgiving, unless he isn’t. The God who is infinitely loving, who will allow infinite torture?

What does that sound like… “I beat you because I love you!” Those are the words of a man who beats his wife regularly, but tells her “You made me do it!” We made God do it, readers. It was our fault all along that Adam and Eve ate that apple, and our fault all along that God has condemned us to eternal torture, our fault all along that Jesus had to be killed. God loves us unconditionally, but sins cannot go without punishment! To let sins go without punishment would require some crazy concept like… I don’t know… Unconditional forgiveness.

As it stands, the best we can hope for is coerced conditional forgiveness.

I am not so arrogant as to believe there could not be a God… But I am very comfortable saying, if there is a God, the Abrahamic religions have no idea what his personality is, because I find it fairly easy to think they’ve got it wrong.

I think anyone who has grown up their whole lives with HIV would find it easy to prove that they’ve got it wrong.

I think anyone who was born with a drug addiction, had they the capacity, would find it easy to prove that they’ve got it wrong.

And I think anyone who takes a minute to step back, ignore all of what other people have told them, and think for themselves could, with an open mind, see that they’ve got it wrong.

I don’t think God loves me. I don’t think God would even care enough to give me the time of day.

Please prove me wrong; like I said at the top, the idea that over one billion people believe that this is what “love” feels like is at the root of my depression.

Please prove me wrong so I can look at the world and be happy again.

Please prove me wrong so that when I wake up in the morning, I do not have to think about the fact that thousands of women are raped every day, doomed to being infected by HIV, because God created a disease that punishes the rapee as much as it punishes the rapist. Tell me why a disease exists that punishes the child more than it could possibly punish the parents, because the child will spend their whole life with it.

Tell me why, so I can stop having nightmares about it.

..

Please?

What’s the deal with Noah’s Ark? And Why Does the Word “Evolutionist” Exist?

When reading fundamentalist Christian literature, or watching/listening to fundamentalist speakers, you often come across the word “Evolutionist.” Now, to clarify, they have often stated that evolution is a faith-based religion, and I don’t think I stand a chance of capturing even one percent of the body of evidence that stands against this statement in this medium. I am not here to restate all of the papers written by reputable scientists. I am here to appeal to your reasoning; think for yourself, if you will. If not, well, I had fun writing and researching this anyway. I will present some cases, mind, but I will try to keep from having to rely on “Things I have not seen first hand.” I know how many fundamentalist Christians do so love to state “You weren’t there.” To see this in (frightening) action, watch any video of Ken Ham speaking to Christian children. He trains them, like dogs, to reply “You weren’t there!” on command, and it feels a little… Cult-y. Like… Even more cult-y than the usual cult-y-ness that I have come to expect from Mr Ham.

Now, when defending the Old Testament account of Noah’s Flood, YECs rely on the math of “Created Kinds”. There are some varying estimation on how many “kinds” were taken. Creation Today (which I’ve referenced in the past), suggests there are 8000 “kinds”, therefore there are 16000 animals (we shall allow them to gloss over Genesis 7:2-3, where it commands 7 pairs of all clean animals be taken [even though that would include things such as cattle and sheep, which would, one suspects, bloat the number]). Apparently Creation Today got their math from Answers in Genesis (which is, admittedly, the definitive apologetics source of our time), so I’ll skip the AIG math. (It is worth reading their work, it is quite the fascinating piece of apologetics, to be sure [https://answersingenesis.org/noahs-ark/how-could-noah-fit-the-animals-on-the-ark-and-care-for-them/]) Another source, CARM (the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry), has a much larger number of “kinds”, though they balance the math by having a smaller average animal size (Sheep for AIG, cats for CARM). [http://carm.org/could-noahs-ark-hold-all-animals] They record 21,100 kinds, and DO account for Genesis 7:2-3, so while I hate to go against the word of the venerable AIG, these guys are at least *trying* to get the math correctly. Mind, they use 7 pairs of birds only, and completely ignore the “clean animals” math. In any case, there are 72,700 animals on the ark, averaging the size of a cat. I have not done the exact math on this, mind, but I feel like they are averaging in the insects for size, but ignoring them for ark content; their math breakdown shows that “Insects can be ignored due to their small size”.

So now we’ve got math! We’ve got the math according to … Ummm… Reputable(?) YEC sources. Let’s look at it a bit more deeply. First, why is there such a wide range in the value presented for “kinds”? Well, that one is simple enough; when you are making your own rules, you can call whatever you want a kind (or not a kind, as the case often is). So each Creationist source does their own “Created Kinds Mathematics”. This problem has gone by the wayside recently, somewhat, in that people are all just leaning on the math provided by Answers in Genesis (Google search: How many boxcars could the ark hold? [You might think that is arbitrary, but you will get thousands of claimants stating objectively that it could hold 569 boxcars]), so 8000 is migrating towards the generally accepted number, but even in today’s age, anyone who tries to do their own math ends up with an arbitrary number. Even though it is a number that is researched, in great depth, by Baraminologists. Oh, you’ve never heard of Baraminology? I would try to link to a respectable dictionary that contains the word, but it is largely unlisted. The definition supplied by http://yourdictionary.com (A wiki dictionary, which means its definitions are supplied not by scholars, but by end users) is as follows:

baraminology

Noun(uncountable)

  1. The classification of organisms based on the Biblical doctrine of Special Creation done mainly by Creationists; the study of the created kinds.

So they made up an entire branch of science to basically count the number of animals on Noah’s ark… And even then, can’t fully agree on the math. I’ll let you chew on that one for a while.

Now, to my second point regarding “kinds” mathematics is that it is considered accepted… Ugh… It hurts me to write this sentence, even as a description of someone else’s beliefs… Alright. Deep breath. Starting over. It is considered generally accepted fact that dinosaurs were on the ark by YECs (and, specifically, AIG). They have reasoned, though, that God sent baby dinosaurs, as (direct quote, copied and pasted) “Even the largest dinosaurs were relatively small when only a few years old.” And now it is my turn to “You weren’t there.” This example, though, does point out the truly fundamental flaw in all of this: They (in their heads) already have the answer they are looking for, they just need to show their work. Oh, fully grown animals wouldn’t have fit? Then we use babies. The math works now!

So I am going to levy their own refrain against them; where’s the evidence?

Through all of this, I have to read that, in only 4,000 years, 16000 animals of 8000 species have created the biodiversity and populations we see today. WITHOUT THE BENEFIT OF EVOLUTION. Every bird, reptile, amphibian, cow, cat, dog, moose, deer, every sheep, gopher, squirrel, (presumably) every insect, arachnid… They can all (somehow) trace their roots back to 8,000 species, and a population of 16,000. If you want to include humans in there, you have 8 humans who have birthed every race (Race, as a word, is racist, as Creation Today so lovingly informed me. Just so you know, we can’t call them races)… So, sorry for my racism. Every “people group” came from those 8, within the last 4,000 years. To add to that, they came to their current living space through migrations from Mount Ararat, again in the last 4,000 years. Effectively–and this is important–according to YECs, everything on the Earth is under 4,000 years old.

I am guessing they had some kind of seed saving mechanism, too, as I can’t figure how trees would survive the flood. In any case, I did a search for “Tree” or “Trees” in the Answers in Genesis article, and came back with nothing. Never mind the fact that tree ring counting allows us to trace trees back further than the age of the Earth (Read: 6,000 years), we can ignore that for now. They have expertly dodged the tree ring counting by stating “you weren’t there” and following it with “How are you to know that trees have ALWAYS grown one ring per year? What if, pre-flood, the seasons were much faster and they grew XX rings per year?!” They use the same logic for Antarctic ice layers, for which we can count into the tens of thousands of years easily. “Something, something, compacted freeze/thaw season.”

Again, we come up with “We know the answer, so we craft the data to fit.” Creation Today (I believe it was a scientist they were interviewing, though I cannot recall the exact episode) stated that, during the flood, radioactive decay was hyper-accelerated. I chose that wording, they would not have used such terminology — it would have confused too many people. Long story short, they say, all element-based dating methods (lead, carbon, uranium, etc) are effectively worthless because during the flood, the half-life of these elements was changed drastically by a factor of we have no idea so you can’t prove us wrong! Funny how that is.

What’s the point of all of this? Well, this is my stream of consciousness, I just wrote this down as it came to me. I have done some research, to be fair, so I have a solid starting point — but by reasoning through this and asking questions, I feel like any fair minded individual would come to the conclusion that forcing all of the math to fit an answer that has no apriori evidence is disingenuous, at best. The worst part is that the counter argument is “We totally did the science,” while supplying very little (to nothing) that would actually count as science at the best of times. If you read through the linked Answers in Genesis article, for example, you will see a host of fuzzy math or statements without proof. They state that they know the diet of the dinosaurs, and what they would eat on the Ark (Because… Because they were there? And we weren’t…?).

Now, we can move on to more claims they make as to the engineering of the ark. Again, from the AIG page linked, they reason that “Since Noah was over 500 years old, it would make sense that he would had the knowledge to build automatic feeding and water systems.” That claim in itself is so absurd on so many levels, I barely know where to start. Never mind the fact that we are now assuming he, of course, would have (clearly) come across advanced knowledge of engineering. He built the ark (in some 75 years, AIG reasons, which would have been easily possible since he was over 500. The blink of an eye!), therefore he knew all of the engineering required to work every system in it. A natural conclusion. Go and ask a modern shipwright if they could, given their knowledge, build an entire ship. You can give him 3 helpers (as Noah had three sons, and one assumes his sons’ wives did not do the heavy carpentry), but the workers are young and inexperienced. And you don’t get any tools, other than what you can manufacture yourself, that part is important (sort of. I think they’d fail even without this handicap, but the full picture is a better illustration). Check back in 10 years and see what they’ve come up with. It’s ok, I’ll wait. You can come back and read once you are done that experiment.

So why did I open this whole post by talking about Evolutionists? Well, that wraps around to how everything in the YEC worldview wraps so tightly around Noah’s Ark. God could have created a frajillion different species of animals before the flood, and only saved 8,000 kinds, so the “math” of evolution has to start after Noah’s Ark. That is why it is so easy for YECs to discount evolution; how could a “slow and gradual” process that only started 4,000 years ago create what we see today?

It all boils down to the fact that, no matter the evidence presented (YEC geologists… Now there’s an interesting bunch of people) regarding the age of the Earth, many will never recant on an Earth that is 6,000 years old and, for all practical calculations, only 4,000 years old.

You know what that means? Ignore everything you just read and stick with the advice that was given me years ago, “Don’t argue with a rock, you just look silly.”

And then, when we all stop fighting, YECs will TRUMPET TO THE HEAVENS that they won the debate, because the non-YECs stopped fighting.

“Well, Chad, why don’t you just ignore the YECs, then?” Oh, you play a dangerous game, reader. The deadliest game. Currently in the States, for example, YECs in government are pushing for Creation (sorry, sorry, sorry… Intelligent design, the… The “Science” of Creation) to be taught in schools across the nation. If we stop fighting, if we roll over and ignore them, they will grow. It’s sometimes been said that to ignore the vocal minority is to invite peace, but I have to look at it another way. To ignore the vocal minority is to invite the silent many to believe that is the company they must keep. The vocal minority and the silent majority then begin to overlap. As moss over a tree, it creeps until all you can see is moss. It is dangerous to just let that happen.

I may be arguing with a rock, but this battle is not about winning. I know I won’t win, and I know we won’t win, not in this generation. I believe the war will end in time, a war of information and education and thought, but it won’t be now. To me, I just feel like I need to remind the world that the battle is happening, because many of my close friends and family had no idea that Creation in the Classroom was a thing. The World is won or lost through information, so here I am. Information.

You Can’t Win Politics

So I was playing Democracy 3 last night (computer game that [this’ll blow your mind] simulates a democracy).

I was going whole hog on Socialism; 90% income tax, but all services provided for, from cradle to grave. My approval rating was over 80%, and I ended up getting more than quadruple the votes of the opposition government. My credit rating was AAA, I was the healthiest and best educated country in the whole world, unemployment was nonexistent, homelessness was nonexistent, crime was nonexistent, and I had slowly replaced all of my cabinet ministers with people who shared my political views…

And then I got assassinated by rich capitalists.

This is why we can’t have nice things.