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Higgs Slams "Fundamentalist" Dawkins December 30, 2012 08:07 59 Comments

Theoretical Physicist Peter Higgs

In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo, theoretical physicist Peter Higgs says of Richard, "What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists"

Yes, there are many believers who are not fundamentalists. I feel we must respectfully reply with: So, what? There's no avoiding it, love him or loathe him, Dawkins has earned his somewhat memetic (apropos) title of Darwin's Rottweiler. His academic, internet, and pop culture fame are due largely to his refreshingly straightforward and unafraid take on faith. Many of you can probably recall the first time you picked up The Selfish Gene, or perhaps the first time you overheard a coffee shop chat about this "God Delusion" thing, or indeed the first YouTube link emailed to you slightly timidly by an old college friend with the subject line of, "Damn. This dude is hardcore!"

Peter Higgs is certainly an incredible scientist, thinker, and for all I know, person. Yet, his problem with Dawkins is that of a perceived fundamentalism. He doesn't argue with Dawkins on the facts, the evidence, or even the arguments themselves. If we're frank about it, Higgs is put off by Dawkins' apparent inability to tenderly coax his audience with kindness and caring. Higgs flat-out calls the Dawkins approach "embarrassing." In 2007, Richard addressed so-called atheist fundamentalism by writing:

"Passion for passion, an evangelical Christian and I may be evenly matched. But we are not equally fundamentalist. The true scientist, however passionately he may 'believe', in evolution for example, knows exactly what would change his mind: evidence! The fundamentalist knows that nothing will."

As an ex-Mormon who was once-upon-a-time fully indoctrinated into a sea of criminally stupid lies, I would ask Professor Higgs why he considers it embarrassing to showcase fact without regard for how it may be perceived. Why he considers it embarrassing to tell someone they're wrong, using as many words, when they claim that the earth is 5,000 years old. Why he considers it embarrassing to not shy away from terms like "child abuse" when referring to the psychological impact that promises of eternal hellfire might have on a toddler.

My views about the natural world were once very, wildly incorrect, but it wasn't the role of the scientist to try to manipulate me into seeing particles of truth which I may or may not have agreed with just as it wouldn't be the role of the accountant to tell me that my savings account is doing "pretty ok, kind of" when I'm really $300 in the shit! The role of my friends, my family, my mentors, and especially myself is to sympathize with my thoughts and question why I believe what I believe. Can we not agree that the role of the scientist is to tell, show, and demonstrate the truth as it has been revealed to them by evidence? Please let's not have them waste time by wondering how the truth might affect our emotional sensibilities. That, my fine Professor Higgs, would be embarrassing.

Please let me know if you disagree, below. Meanwhile, please permit me to humbly plug our very relevant shirt, the "Militant" Atheist!

 

Brian
brian@theproudatheist.com


Just What, Exactly, Is Atheism? November 21, 2012 08:58 33 Comments

Ever since I brought the question of Atheism Plus to this blog, my being, my very core, has been shattered, and every granule remaining from the devastating destruction is poised, waiting on the brink to turn on its fellow granules and wage all-out total war in an effort to prove what is and what is not.  In other, less grandiose, and, let's face it, false words, the response to the blog, and in turn the responses I was spurned to write, lit a spark of inquiry in my sunken chest - what exactly "comes with" atheism?  What's bundled in with the purchase of every Deity Denial?  When I order a Godless #7, do I get fries or slaw?

As many of the anti-Atheism+ folks were adamant to point out, "atheism" itself isn't really a movement.  It's not really anything.  I'm sure I'm paraphrasing dozens of more witty and urbane folk, but atheism is a system of belief the same way not-boxing is a sport of kings, being quiet is a genre of music, and "off" is a television channel.

 

Or like this sparkly thing is a vampire. (Source: allthingsd.com)

In its simplest, purest form, the kind of crystal clear Walter White would cook up, atheism means the disbelief in a "god," a supernatural force that is creator and governor over human souls.  I don't even like using the word "disbelief" there; to me its more of an acknowledgement of a fact of the world.  Facts don't require belief or disbelief.  I know I'm preaching to the choir, but I could believe all I want that I don't have a wart on my hand, but that's not going to change the fact that I either need to see a dermatologist or buy some gloves.

But even the bit about what TYPE of god is unnecessary, if we want to simplify further.  To the atheist, there are NO gods, not deist types who created the infinite Multiverse, fine-tuned the cosmic dials of physics and chemistry, and then floated away to dick around on Xbox.  No theist types who take a serious vested interest in EVERY SINGLE prayer, no matter how contradictory they may be to EVERY OTHER prayer.  No multi-teired gods that are all part of the same god, nothing like that.

 

Nope, not even Thor. (Source: 1upcollectibles.com)

That's it.  End of definition.  This is what the anti-plus folks were arguing - lumping together a bunch of ideals and goals and shared viewpoints on top of a word that means something very simple is unnecessary.  It was the same reaction when the whole hullabaloo about "brights" came up.  A person could be an atheist and have VERY different opinions on a multitude of issues.  Hell, and atheist could strongly believe in ghosts, cryptozoological creatures, and The Secret - they'd still be an atheist if none of those things fell under the billowy veil of "god."

I also feel it is unnecessary to define what type of god "atheism" rejects, but for the opposite reason.  For me, atheism comes with a whole boatload more.  Right of the bat, being an atheist also comes with a denial of most, if not all, of the world of the "supernatural."  To me, there's just as much evidence for a god as there is for a ghost.  These people fall into the realm of the "Spiritual But Not Religious," a group that deserves its own space on this blog for the tarring-and-feathering I feel it oh so justly deserves.

To me, atheism comes with an overwhelming appreciation for science, especially the life sciences of evolutionary biology that better explain our place on this odd little rock better than any tattered old parchment.  For most it seems like a thorough understanding of evolution by natural selection LEADS to the denial of the supernatural and of creator gods.  I admit - I was handed The God Delusion before The Selfish Gene and The Greatest Show on Earth, but it was actually reading an interview with Douglas Adams, published posthumously in the tragically brilliant collection The Salmon of Doubt that began my lust for knowledge on how we fit in here and why that's a better offering than the teachings of religion.  I've yet to meet an atheist that is also a denier of evolution, or a proponent of the young-Earth theory.  I'm not saying they don't exist, but to me, they just seem to go hand-in-hand.

 

Read This! But only after reading everything else the man wrote, and only then if you're prepared to cry like a little girl. (Source: neoseeker.com)

When you deny the existence of a creator god, and, depending on the god or gods, the existence of an afterlife, the crushing, almost paralyzingly so, realization that THIS IS IT comes with.  Again, I'm not saying there aren't atheists that may simultaneously believe in zero gods while also believing in the eternal soul or reincarnation or alternate planes of existence or some such bullwonky, but I've yet to encounter him or her.  This too seems to be an atheism package deal.  No gods = this life is it.  The odds stacked against one unique little swimmer uniting with the warm orb and resulting in the exact genetic code for ME is so astronomically huge that one is simply bowled over by how appreciative I, and all of us, should be every single day that we even made it, when the slightest alteration in the plan could have resulted in anyone else.  Or no one at all!  Of course, it's hard to live constantly in awe and appreciation of existence itself - think about it too long and you have to sit down with a glass of water.

 

Or, preferably, something stronger. (Source: realfoodtraveler.com)

I find the same thing happens if I try to think about what would existence be like if we had evolved to work in the world of atoms, and we could see that every object is mostly empty space.  Or what if we had evolved to perceive time several times slower than we do today.    OR what if another species elsewhere on the planet, separate and secluded, had developed consciousness at the same rate as humans!

 

Do NOT think about this stuff while operating heavy machinery. (Source: i.com)

From this consciousness-raising view of the universe and our tiny place in it, a whole slew of other stuff seems to follow.  Atheists seem to be in favor of a woman's right to choose.  They seem to be tolerant of the decision to let go of life in situations in which assisted suicide would be preferable to prolonged suffering.  I could go on, but it seems so much simpler to connect atheism with humanism, because it looks a whole lot like the two go hand in hand.  But there's an aspect of humanism that I personally feel goes right along with the entire atheism caboodle but somehow missed the kit for a whole lot of non-believing folk I've met, and that's personal responsibility - specifically, the kind of personal responsibility that would be labelled as "Libertarianism" in the political sphere.  Why?  Well, that's a question for next time, isn't it?  I've got to go drink whiskey and contemplate our place in the universe.  I expect to find all of zero answers.


Dawkins Returns To TV To Talk Boners and Corpses October 17, 2012 21:33 4 Comments

Like Ringo Starr, I apologize for the lateness of my reply.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="580"] Richard Dawkins, looking off with his filthy mind on sex and death and stuff. (Source: Radiotimes.com)[/caption]

Richard Dawkins Dares to Question the Unshakeable Morality of the Holy Word of YAHWEH.

Richard Dawkins, that ne'er-do-well and general pot-stirrer, is at it again, this time deigning to insult the infallible notion that a book written by desert-dwelling nomads centuries ago somehow shouldn't be the end-all, be-all of modern man's basis of morality. And he put this affront to decency on TELEVISION. My kids could be watching that, on Channel 4.

The special, "Sex, Death, and the Meaning of Life," airs... well, a few nights ago (as of writing... sorry) and aims to address what would happen if we finally left religion behind. Are ethics and morality an evolutionary product, or do they truly come from ten laws blasted into stone by an irate shrubbery? What changes could society see in the creation of law? Does science and reason present enough incentive to behave in a moral fashion towards our fellow man? Does the dogma of religious adherence do more harm than good in the name of following a strict moral code? How many references to Douglas Adams will there be outside of the title? Lots?

Personally, I hope for an in-depth expose on the absolute ridiculousness of victimless crimes, which I personally equate with the idea of outright thought crimes. Why, in the present, when conjugating the verb is no longer the ridiculous taboo used to keep the simple out of power, is making sex the unspeakable moral pothole it still is?! The absurd punishment and shaming of adults behaving morally in the privacy of their own homes needs to be addressed. If I want to bring my Fleshlight with me whenever I travel, because most hotel beds are EXACTLY the right height for... well, using it properly, I shouldn't be ashamed when TSA needs to take it out and asks, "is there food in here?"*  I think society has come far enough to give me that!

EDIT: Watched it.  Dawkins really didn't address the proliferation of male sexual aides.  Shame.  Good though, give it a watch.  Maybe in part 2.

*Entirely a true story.


The Religio-Industrial Revolution Will Be Televised August 12, 2012 11:48 1 Comment

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="330"] One of many mega-churches around the nation, funneling untold dollars into the "religio-industrial" complex (Source: GodDiscussion.com)[/caption]

Richard Dawkins Foundation to expose the Lives of The Rich and Religious

From GodDiscussion.com comes the first information on a new documentary intended to reveal just how much of a cash cow this whole tax-free religion thing is.  From Sean Faircloth, RDF's Director of Strategy and Policy, ""Today, I am announcing that the Richard Dawkins Foundation U.S. is starting a project to expose  the religio-industrial complex through a professional documentary that reveals both the human injustices caused by fundamentalism in law but also the lifestyles of the rich and religious.  And you can help.  With a little bit of investigating of public records and Google maps, you can in your state document what is happening and show that this is a pervasive problem and not an anomaly.  And don’t forget the homes of the children and the siblings who are called by God to get a really sweet tax exemption."  GodDiscussion catalogues Faircloth's lengthy speech at the most recent TAM (The Amazing Meeting) in Las Vegas, and the article concludes with the full video.  To get the email address so you can help out, click here to be taken to the full article, where you can watch said video.  I was at TAM this year, but I was too busy shakin' it at Penn Jillette's Bacon and Doughnuts Party to hear anything other than killer tunes.  Let that be a lesson - important smart stuff first, get stupid later.