Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I want to just write a long, long entry responding to everyone’s responses! But I cannot, at least tonight. I am so tired. I can barely see straight. I have been doing spelling drills with Mulan and all I can say is T-h-a-n-k-s-g-i-v-i-n-g.

Last Thanksgiving we flew to New York from Los Angeles, and left purposefully at two in the afternoon. The Thanksgiving before that, we were in Spokane with my mother as she got two knee replacements the day before Turkey-day – by the way: turkey, t-u-r-k-e-y. And this Thanksgiving, my boyfriend and his brother and his mother are coming here. I am way looking forward to it.

Oh, Oh – GAWD, I can’t even get started. Even though I want to, I want to. I want to respond to the Christian person who wrote that about his objections to using science to find truth, and that it science has an anti-God bias. I think a lot of people think that. I used to think that too – those poor scientists who can only use numbers and facts to make sense of the Universe.

I was really glad that Pontifica wrote back. I still disagree with much of what you are suggesting you may be entertaining as your point of view. But I really, really think it’s awesome that you are even reading my blog and the comments at all! I very much appreciate that.

Mulan lost a tooth today. Now she doesn’t have either of her two front teeth. (There's a Christmas song I think we have to learn!) Anyway, I have to go play tooth fairy. (I think the Tooth Fairy and Santa are okay. I think you can participate in elaborate fantasies with your child as long as you expect them to outgrow them by age... 12 - at the latest)

I am bleary eyed and heading for bed. I will write tomorrow.


Flippy said...

I am 42, Jewish, and Atheist - I still believe in Santa. He brings presents!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Julia,

I'm not sure if your comment about an anti-God bias in science was directed at me or not (I did make that comment), but I'll address your point that the poor scientists can only use facts and numbers.

As it relates to evolutionary theory, by its very nature, evolution cannot be verified in the same way as traditional science can by experiments and direct observation. No one has ever observed one species evolving into another species. So, the scientific method does not apply to evolution. That theory relies on assumption, and speculation. It is a theory of historical reconstruction and cannot be verified by scientific observation. It cannot be denied that any evidence discovered by scientists that runs counter to the theory is discounted.

Any scientist who has proposed an alternative to dogmatic Darwinian theory opens himself up for abuse and ostracization from the scientific community. Take for example Goldschmidt who proposed that evolution occurs in leaps and not through gradual micro changes over eons of time as Darwin proposed. As Stephen Gould observed, he became the "whipping boy" of the Modern Synthesis.

Michael Denton has observed that crucial problems with the theory are virtually never discussed. He further states that the overriding supremacy of the myth has created the widespread ILLUSION that the theory of evolution was all but proved 100 years ago and that all subsequent research has provided ever increasing evidence for the theory. Denton states that nothing could be further from the truth, in fact, the opposite has occured.

Since this is getting a little long, in my next entry, I will work on a list of examples of scientists who have been berated for their views which are contrary to dogmatic Darwinian theory.


bookboy said...

So much talk and debate. I remember when I was younger keeping points during an after a debate. “He’s going down” or “She made a couple of good points” but I can’t remember anyone every changing my mind. They might have frustrated me a bit, a lot. But I just dug deeper to find the right words and delivery, to try the next time. Then at some moment that I don’t remember exactly, I came to this. “I can no more change their “minds” as I could their eye color. My reason, their reason would not permit it. It is our defense mechanism; our narcissism if you will that would recreate the whole world out of ourselves even if no one else existed. In every one of us a “working level of narcissism is inseparable from self-esteem, from a basic sense of self-worth”. That brings me to this. Norman O. Brown said that “Western society since Newton, no matter how scientific or secular it claims to be, is still as “religious” as any other, this is what he meant: “civilized” society is a hopeful belief and protest that science, money and goods make man count for more than any other animal. In this sense everything that man does is religious and heroic, and yet in danger of being fictitious and fallible.”

TimWarp said...

WWJD? I mean, of course, what would Julia do.

I just served for two days on a jury. We didn't have to put our hands on a bible, but we did have to swear (or affirm!) an oath that had the word "God" in it. By swearing on the oath, did that mean I was lying under oath because I don't believe there is a God? I suppose the courts have an alternative if someone did protest having to do that, but I wasn't brave enough (or, truthfully, motivated enough) to protest to find out. But I did ask myself WWJD.

Norma Manna Blum said...

Poor exhausted Julia - how brave you are: if I were having MY boyfriend's mother over for Thanksgiving (except that I WOULDN'T) I would take refuge in curling up in a fetal position and napping through the whole experience.
Or I would have an emergency appendectomy.
Some kind of ectomy.
Is she staying very long? Boyfriend's mothers are more problematical than mothers-in-law, because there is no body of literature, humorous and otherwise from which to take comfort.
A good question! WHY are there no "Boyfriend's Mother Jokebooks?"
No doubt the answer likes somewhere in the evolutionary process.. ..but this needs some serious thought, which I am fully prepared to give.
But enough of one social situation fraught with delicacy, and onward to another:

Frst, my apologies at being blog-protocol deficient.
So if it is not acceptable blog behavior to add to your latest entry a response to a comment made by a poster on a previous day, to one of your previous entries, please speak up so I will know how to behave in the future..
But I wouldn't want Anonymous to think that I haven't read his/her comments addressed tp me (and which happily had my name spelled correctly, my only standard for valid criticism) and didn't take them seriously enough for a thoughtful response.

From Anonoymous:
Norma Manna Blum:

It used to be fun to visit the comment section of Julia's blog because it was about JULIA.
You're making it a drag now by trying to put the focus on you (and apparently by trying to make yourself sound intelligent and important).>

NMB:Golly, Anonymous!
What can I do to reverse this unfortunate state of affairs?..
Let's see - given that I seem to be the only one here who interferes with your enjoyment making it my responsibility to restore your sense of fun - if restoring the possibility of your enjoying yourself can't be effected even while I am still here (a condition unlikely to change)..

How about trying out this for a day or so just to see how it works out:
When you see my name, pretend you are looking at,say, a pile of dog poop.
Either step around it holding your nose, or ignore it all together.
There is no requirement - unless you are still a minor in the care of a strict parent or school master - that you take the time, or make the effort to read what is so patently offensive to you.

Now, Anonymous! Don't you agree that one of the interesting things about Julia's blog is the variety of participants it attracts?
Would it be an improvement if your standards of what's "fun" were imposed either by custom or rule?

Anonymous: If you have so much to say, start your own blog and preach from there.

NMB: Isn't that a little preachy, Anonomous? (Oogah Oohgah.)
Never mind...
You are clearly insightful enough to recognize that egomania such as mine can't be satisfied by a single blog.
No, I am waiting for an appointment to a Megachurch, which are of late becoming more easily available as Church standards decline.
Although I would certainly consider the Vatican if something suitable to my level of intelligence and importance opens up there anytime soon.
But, Anonymous, no matter how high up I go in the Ecclesiastical world, I think I will always find time to check in to see what is of concern to Julia and what conceptions her fans are kicking around.
Meanwhile, here's lookin' at YOU, kid!
Best regards,
Norma Manna Blum

Anonymous said...

"evolution cannot be verified in the same way as traditional science can by experiments and direct observation"

Michael, this is not true. Researchers at UC San Diego have demonstrated evolution of a bacterial genome in near real time. Check out the link below.


Anonymous said...


I read the article you reference. It appears that the experiment showed a genetic mutation of a bacteria. I did not see in the article where the bacteria mutated into another species. Your quote from me left out the next sentence: "No one has ever observed one species evolving into another species."

It is important to point out that I am addressing macro evolution, not micro evolution. Darwin observed micro evolution and extrapolated from that macro evolution into his theory.


Anonymous said...

Michael, are you saying that two bacteria with different genome sequences are the same species? I think the article makes my point. A related study with fish can be found here although the conclusions remain tentative:
If any credible scientific evidence surfaced to disprove the theory of evolution scientists would not only accept it but the scientists would probably earn a Nobel Prize. Your assertion that "it cannot be denied that any evidence discovered by scientists that runs counter to the theory is discounted" would be devastating to science if it were true. It is not.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Santa Claus: I like that Julia and Flippy are pro-Santa. Santa is fun.

It's weird that children are typically given the beautiful Santa Claus story at the same time that they are given the beautiful story of a divine Jesus. Both stories bring wonder and joy and let children know they are loved and watched over and all that. But we fully expect that ALL children will outgrow the ability to accept and believe in Santa--because it is clearly not possible for him to exist as the myth describes him--yet the same children are expected to accept and even deepen their belief in the divine Jesus--despite the fact that it seems pretty darned impossible for him to exist as the myth describes him.

Santa's great--as long as we don't start trying to prove him or his magic.

Anonymous said...


My statement is true and there are many examples of its truth. It cannot be denied that "scientific inquiry" the way it's accepted today accounts only for "natural" explanations of phenomena. Any evidence that appears to point to supernatural exaplanations is discounted by the very nature of how scientists view the paradigm. Only natural explanations can be offered. If those explanations run contrary to some piece of evidence, then the evidence is discounted.

For example, Prof. Watson, a leading biologist in the 1920s wrote:

"Evolution [is] a theory universally accepted not because it can be proven by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible."

Likewise, Prof. Lewontin, a leading geneticist wrote:

"We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfil many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

That being the case, it is disingenous to argue that science does not discount evidence that points to the supernatural.

Futhermore, there are many examples of scientists, professors, etc. who dared to question the legitimacy of the Darwinian evolutionary model being reprimanded, removed, etc. Not because their position did not intrinsically have merit but because it ran contrary to the shibboleth of evolution. Those examples will be forthcoming.


Anonymous said...

Hi Julia!

I just discovered your blog today after hearing a 30-minute snippet of your Letting Go of God show on onegoodmove.org. I just wanted to write and let you know how much I appreciated hearing that shortened version (and oh yes, I WILL be buying the full verson :) ) of your experience. I think you are an incredibly brave person, and I am very heartened to see that you are continuing with being vocal about what you really think!

I personally like to refer to myself as a recovering Southern Baptist, but my current belief system is probably best described as Diest... with leanings toward atheism. Sure, God could exist, but I find myself caring less and less about whether it does.

I like what bookboy said about debate, and I see it so much in my life. I have a friend whom I care a great deal about whom I would descibe as very progressive, open minded, etc... except when it comes to religion. Any time a conversation flirts with that area of his life, the conversation suddenly shifts into a mantra of "Jesus is the only way". It breaks my heart to see how he so stubbornly latches onto a belief system that is clearly not working for him... but he won't listen to me about it just like I'm not interested in what he's selling. So we're in a stalemate just like any other 'debate' about religion. It's facinating how even now that I'm not a Christian in any way (it's clear to me that Jesus is an invention created in a time when inventing religion was a major industry) I am still trying to convince people to see things the way that I see them... proselytize my unbelief when I can't stand Christians proselytizing to me. How crazy is that?

Anyway, keep up the great work, Julia! Maybe with more wonderful people like you in this country being vocal about what you believe, American distrust of Atheists will fall to the wayside...


Ivy said...

I can't believe it took me this long to find your online spot. I have always adored your work. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Sign me: Ivy, a Quakerscopalian with agnostic tendencies.

bookeraptor said...

There are two problems with your statement that "no one has ever observed one species evolving into another species".
First: the concept of "species" is not as self-evident as it has been in the past. "Species" and "subspecies" are terms of convenience use to mark off segments on a continuum as one marks off degrees fahrenheit on a thermometer. To paraphrase Dobzhansky, species are not biological units, they are abstractions, semantic devices used to describe and communicate the results of observations.
Darwin himself wrote in the Origin of Species: "I look at the term species as one arbitrarily given, for the sake of convenience, to set off individuals closely resembling each other...". At certain points, the concept of species breaks down completely, and the difficulty of classifying nature in this way clearly shows the interrelatedness of all life.
Second: evolution normally occurs at a rate and tempo that spans hundreds or thousands of generations. Two closely related warblers, the blue-winged and the golden-winged, regularly interbreed where their ranges overlap. Their offspring are fertile and they freely backcross with either of their "separate species" parents. Is one "species" becoming another in this process? This is where biologists look to see evolution in action.
And direct observation is not the only reliable source of evidence. Past events can reliably be inferred by logical deduction using methods that all historical sciences have in common. The fossil record itself shows structures that shift and change in relation to each other to be used by nature for some other purpose. One example is three bones in the jaws of reptiles. They can be traced through the fossil record, step by step, moving into a position in the inner ears of mammals.
Darwin established the fact of evolution and proposed a theory, Natural Selection, to explain it and discoveries made in the nearly 150 years since then have confirmed the essentials of his theory beyond any doubt. The field of genetics, unknown in Darwin's time, and the discovery of DNA, have given support to Darwin’s idea in ways he could only dream of.
There is so much more to say, but I have taken up too much space already.
More later...

Kergillian said...

Anonymous (Michael) said...

"As it relates to evolutionary theory, by its very nature, evolution cannot be verified in the same way as traditional science can by experiments and direct observation. No one has ever observed one species evolving into another species. So, the scientific method does not apply to evolution."

That is not true.
Evolution cannot be watched in a lab the way bacteria can, but the Scientific method does and is applied to evolution.
Genetics, DNA sampling, and the fossil record can be used to observe the effects of evolution on a large scale.
On a smaller scale Evolution CAN be directly observed and measured. I point you to the many strains of bacteria that have evolved immunities to many antibiotics.
Look up Antibiotic resistance on Wikipedia, it says:
"Antibiotic resistance is a consequence of evolution via natural selection.
The antibiotic action is an environmental pressure; those bacteria which have a mutation allowing them to survive will live on to reproduce. They will then pass this trait to their offspring, which will be a fully resistant generation.

Several studies have demonstrated that patterns of antibiotic usage greatly affect the number of resistant organisms which develop."

Doug said...

Hello Julia,

I must say these discussions, although great knowledge, get very frustrating when talking to jeeziods. I was on a Christian forum several months ago where I got into a lengthy discussion with several jeeziods. Some were nice, in that everything-is-solved-by-quoting-a-line-in-the-bible sort of way while others were so indignant that a civil discussion was not even possible (good little christians). The discussion involved my feeling that if God is perfect in every way, the whole omnipotent thing, then why is anyone on this planet arguing as to (1) if there is a god and (2) if he/she exists, what part of his/her "words" are to be followed. My theory was that if this god is perfect, then we should have all been pre-programmed with "the word" so that there would never be any question as to what his/her word was (is?). Why should anyone ever need a book written by mere mortals hundreds of years after the fact that requires interpetation? Why should we need a mere mortal to go up a mountain and come down several days later with tablets with some fearsome laws? I'm sorry, I just thought a perfect entity like god would have some sort of logic involved in shaping the lives of billions of people on the planet.

Recently, through discussions at my workplace, when taking the convesation regarding religion up to the point where the jeezoid would need to open their minds and accept the holes in religion...the jeeziod just freezes up. This is why I call them jeezoids, as they remind me of a robot that is told what to do and how to do it and when asked to go outside those parameters, they just freeze up like it just doesn't compute.

Although I reference christian heavily, this really relates to anyone who believes in a god.

I am glad to see that there is a revolution happening in the world to denounce this fairy tale called religion...and hopefully open our childrens lives to free thinking in the future.

Take care.

tvarga said...

My son recently lost a couple of teeth, and as I had just read Is the Tooth Fairy Real?: A Fable in "Teaching Pigs to Sing: An Experiment in Bringing Critical Thinking to the Masses" by Harriet Hall in the May/June 2006 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (p. 39), I read it to him. (www.csicop.org/si/2006-03/thinking.html) It prompted a bit of a discussion about how to find things out. I did not tell him that I was the tooth fairy, but I told him that it was a mystery, and that I did know the answer to the mystery. He actually found that rather a satisfying response. The point is that I agree that the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus are fine, but why not get some age-appropriate critical thinking purchase from them, while still allowing kids to enjoy the fantasy?

Audrey Heffner said...

I don't have any answers, just another question, thanks to timwarp and normamannablum, my personal hero.

They asked "why were there no boyfriends mothers jokebooks," and "How do you swear on the bible in court?" Mine is "Can an atheist get insurance coverage for acts of God?"

I like to think that as a non-believer, for some reason, i've dealt with the fact that there are just goanna be questions that go unanswered in life.

Suits me just fine.

Notma Manna Blum said...

Audrey points out a significan facet of the god-evolution problem : why is it that people who can accept Genesis as both natural and human history without taking any offense at the preposterous nature of the fictions AND the consequences of them, so often take the position (and passionately) that their objections to the theory of evolution rests solely on insufficient proof?

In other words, that it isn't scientific ENOUGH!

Otherwise, presumably , they would themselves go around the world as missionaries touting the beauties (and it is beautiful) of evolution with the same fervor that "In the beginning..." raises in the believing breast.
WHAT, for Christ's sake is that all about?
And why are atheists supposed to take this particular carping so seriously that we are willing to spend so much time refuting it?
So to Michael: do not, please, confuse (for instance) Professor Lewontin's challenge to the idea that intelligence is not necessarily a function of heretidty with his being an anti- Darwinist.
Nothing could be further from the reality of what he has written or taught.
No responsible scientist working today can or would deny that within the scope of evolutionary theory there are many differences and disagreemenst, as well as significant blanks to be filled in - by WORK, not opinion - but that hardly means that any of them, including Lewontin would not classify himself as being convinced that Evolution rules the scientific roost and is the spring from which all (scientific) blessings flow.
And aside to Audrey: having heros, particularly based on the evidence available in exchanges of messages on a blog site, is not such a good idea.
Disappointment lurks, for both parties.
Don't forget the Blum dictum, that an atheist is quite capable of being as insincere , humorless, and dull of wit as Pat Robertson, or be as much a predator of little children as your parish priest.
One hopes not, of course, but atheisn only means one doesn't believe in god.
It doesn't endow the particular atheist with any other qualities.
It doesn't mean that one isn't capable of beating his wife, abandoning his children, robbing a bank, or being totally disinterested in , and devoid of, moral philosophies.
But of course, belief in the supernatural (or Big Daddy (and son) in the sky) l doesn't either, and what's more it never did.
Which is why we are n the mess we are in now.
Too much of mindless obedience has been deleterious to our collective mental health.
Keep a skeptical eyebrow raised at all times: never leave home without it.
Norma Manna Blum

Anonymous said...


You wrote:

"Too much of mindless obedience has been deleterious to our collective mental health.
Keep a skeptical eyebrow raised at all times: never leave home without it.

I assume you are talking about religion. However, I would ask if you apply that same viewpoint to evolutionary theory and scientific "discoveries".

I am sorry you missed my point completely regarding Prof. Lewontin. I never meant to imply that he was anything other than a committed Darwinist. In fact, that was my point. All the "evidence" that he and other scientists in that vein observe are filtered through the paradigm of Darwinian evolution. Therefore, any evidence which runs contrary to that paradigm is discounted or made to fit within that paradigm. Is that not self evident?

Thus, for example, how does evolution explain the appearance of the bat. Well, it must have evolved from a small mammal. Ok, where is the proof of that. Well, you see, the fossil record is incomplete. We may never find proof of that. Oh ... then how do you know it evolved from a mammal? Because that must be so. It could not have appeared any other way. Well, could you describe for me in detail how this mammal would have functioned with elongated fingers that were not very useful but yet unable to fly? Wouldn't that mammal be less able to protect itself? How could it really function as a species during these transitional stages? Answer: Have you seen the experiments on bacterial mutations? Are you aware that most scientists believe in evolution? Are you aware of the many proofs of evolution? Reply: Are you aware of Darwin's observation that if it could be shown that a complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, slight, successive modifications, his theory would absolutely break down?

So, in the good company of skeptics, I would ask where is the proof for bat formation?


vampire406 said...

Santa Claus was my first and best lesson in skeptism. I grew up in a completely secular household. I thought religion was ridiculous as early as age 4. However, I believed in Santa Claus. As I got older and it was thought I took Santa a bit too seriously, of course the news was broken to me.

But you know what, I still like Santa. I like to play secret Santa to people. It's a purely emotional indulgence - I get to be a kid again for a couple of hours once a year!

Norma Manna Blum said...

To Audrey: Very funny: the wit is appreciated .
I, a woman totally lacking in judgment, probably would have forgiven Mussolini if he had made me laugh.

To Michael: OF COURSE, when I say question everything, I mean EVERYTHING.
Why would you assume otherwise?
Because it is your preconceived notion that those who accept Evolution are necessarily blind while GOD gave believers eyes with which to see?
The theory of evolution is itself just one continuing barrage of questions, questions and more questions.
As a matter of fact what is Science itself but one long, long question?
Recently, a single volume edition of all four books by Darwin was published, with a wonderful introductory essay by Dr. E.O. Wilson ( the "ant man" -gotta LOVE those ants ) which addresses just that aspect of science in general and evolution in particular..
An essay of such intellectual and moral clarity that it could - like "the Sermon on the Mount," or the 23rd Psalm, bring tears to the eyes.
Only with better results: those two biblical examples, both inarguably beautiful, are not instruments of enlightenment,
Because it is more accurately addressed to what man is capable of achieving with this remarkable brain that evolution is, even as we speak -working on.
And working on.
And working on.
There is no religious analogy: we were not created in any IMAGE: we, like any species, are a work in progress.
But whatever stage we are at, we are lucky enough to have the remarkable talent for laughter.
Which means - what else COULD it mean? - that we are evolved (the only species so endowed) to have fun and laugh a lot..
Who knows? ( Yet.)
It undoubtedly has something signficant to do with survival, as most things do.
But there it is,let's not forget to go for it.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that Michael visit The Panda's Thumb or Pharyngula to get into discussions about Evolution with actual evolutionary biologists rather than interject his pet subject into these discussion threads.

Unless he's already been there and received a thorough drubbing, which wouldn't surprise me - I've seen all of his arguments refuted on those blogs many times before.


Sheldon said...

Hanukkah Harry brings the presents, kids!

And I have 12 pair of wool socks to prove it.

Sheldon said...

Anonymous (Michael) said:
...evolution cannot be verified in the same way as traditional science can by experiments and direct observation

If you think that "traditional science" is all about sitting and watching something happen, you really need to take some science courses at your local junior college, dude.

3boysmom said...

When a Christian starts in on the whole debate about evolution and science, to me it is a bit extraneous. I would like to ask Michael if he has "checked his brain at the door" (his words, not mine) regarding the very basics of his faith.

Has he truly (objectively) studied the origins of the bible, for instence. If one is to claim it is the word of god--I'd think it would be a whole lot more important to study that than argue tidbits of information about evolution. So what if you DID somehow prove there was some kind of creation? Where is the giant leap from there to the creator being the god of your bible?

Anonymous said...

Dear Miss Sweeney,

My name is Carl. I am a 31 ear old physics student from Nashville, TN, the proverbial buckle of the bible belt. For the vast majority of my life I have been passionately christian. The warmth of knowing that even if all we do amounts to naught, if we are victims of unfairness and crulety, still in the end, good will prevail and all will be right. I have possesed a deep love of science all my life, but I must confess I lacked a sceptical spirit. I like many of my peers felt that faith was a true virtue. Like having trust in your best friend that he would be there if you got in trouble even if it didn't look likely. My eventual conversion came about because of three great men. Dr. Carl Sagan, who inspired the wonder in me to try to understand what is knowable, and to ever reach further, knowing that all the questions would not be answered in my lifetime, but knowing there was beauty in finding fruitful new questions. Then I stumbled upon the other two men, Dr. Phil Plait and James Randi, who finally made me take the sceptical eyes I turned upon the fantasy of my college peers, who felt that poping joints could aleviate earaches and spells were as real in the world as in the games we played, and turn that scepticism to my own particular fantasies, and finally conclude that I could no more validly defend them than the others. And through those men I learned of you. Miss Sweeney, you have no idea of what a comfort you are to many newfound atheists who have given up their religions. Most atheist sites or blogs are conflist driven, with hostility, and a steady stream of combative language. And I must say that at times I feel froggy and wish to engage in this type of mental dueling. But what many people who have been atheists their entire lives, and even converts who are still in the throws of anger over being misled, fail to see.....is that for some of us, something beautiful has died. We mourn or faith, our belief that all will be well. When my mother recently died, I was surrounded by friends wishing my condolences, and offering that I will see her again someday. All that really happens there is you are reminded that, no....you won't. No one teaches a new atheist how to deal with greif, or loss, or developing morals in the absence of a black and while divide. But while you cannot be expected to provide these answers you offer what we rarely find. Empathy. For this I truly thank you.


Anonymous said...

Carl, you might enjoy the new book by Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan based on his Gifford Lecture where he expressed his views on god:
Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan (Editor) "The Varieties of Scientific
Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God"
The readers of this blog site might also enjoy a book by Jennifer Michael Hecht called Doubt A History.
To express my gratitude for Julia's work I just purchased a dozen copies of her tape to give to friends and family--many who are believers but not fundamentalists!

Norma Manna Blum said...

All that really happens there is you are reminded that, no....you won't. No one teaches a new atheist how to deal with greif, or loss, or developing morals in the absence of a black and while divide. But while you cannot be expected to provide these answers you offer what we rarely find. Empathy. For this I truly thank you.


12:07 PM
Thanks for the remnder, which is unfortunately gets lost in the adversarial nature of this kind of discussion.
Yes, it's true, both that it is Julia's virtue and value, and that born skeptics really CAN't have sufficient empathy with the chagrin and disappointment of believers that what they were taught and believed in so fervently is quite impossible..
Nothing is crueler that the lies told to innocent, defenseless children, even if the lie was told to make them more comfortable in what is sometimes a forbidding as well as incomprehensible world.
But cerainly lack of compassion for the trauma of having the veil lifted from the eyes is cruel as well.
No question.
One problem that makes newly arrived at skepticism hard to deal with is that while religion purports (although it actually does not, or the world would be different than it is) to provide us with a moral system based on clear notions of good and evil, right and wrong.. science, particularly evolution offers no such comfort.
Science is morally neutral.. some of the reality of our existence as a species among other species is cruel and even ugly..
Its virtue lies in the fact that it is the truth, and the truth may one day actually make us free.
But it does have equally dramatic areas of unalloyed symmetry and beauty.. and the cruelty and ugliness is NOT personal.
That is it is not directed at us because of some inherent failure in our character or our behavior, our lack of obedience to a higher power, that grand and impervious dispenser of justice.
How much better to recognize that for the most part human consilience DOES exist: we are naturally more moral than we have been led to believe.

I get a preachy myself sometimes, and I do have a tendency to push pamphlets upon my victims as if I were giving out hints for salvation like a Mormon missionary, or a Rabbi .... BUT, many years ago I read a very brief but memorable description by Freeman Dyson of how as a child he discovered and fell madly in love with mathematics.. in "Disturbing the Universe."
It remains with me as an enviable description of how one's meeting with the whole idea of KNOWLEDGE, the possibilities of the mind to fathom what yesterday seemed a mystery, is reserved ONLY for humans.. no other animal has the potential for such an experience.
It's the gift that makes up for not accepting the supernatural as our motivating impulse.
I urge you to consider that , read Dyson (who is actually a Christian of a kind) or E. O. Wilson (staunch atheist) on the subject of ANTS.- his passion is communicable..
None of it will make up for losing your mother forever as a tangible being, but it will remind you that the world is nevertheless a limitlessly wonderful place to be, and you have the possibility to make it even more so..
And that you once did have a mother..and your connection with her is never going to change.
It's just never going to be what you were, sadly, led to believe it would be.
Jeez...., I hope that doesn't sound too sappy...what I mean is that immortality is a lie.
If it weren't it is quite impossible that we would, by this stage in our development or merely our tenure as a species on this planet, have failed to receive some hint of its existence even if it were reserved for the faultless, the sinless, the annointed...
We haven't.
Ever.. and that's a fact.

Anonymous said...

To Lizvelrene,

I have visited the TalkOrigins site many times, read many of its articles, and corresponded with one of its authors. No, I did not receive a thorough drubbing, but we did have an interesting conversation. I would be very interested to know where on those sites the problems with bat evolution have been resolved. Do you know that for a fact or are you just assuming it has occurred?

To Sheldon,

The quote from me which you showed was not my own invention. It has also been stated in those same terms by Dr. Michael Denton, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Otago in New Zealand, a molecular biologist of world reknown, the author of two books, and a person who has published numerous scientific articles in peer reviewed journals. Do you want to advise Dr. Denton to take "some science courses at your local junior college, dude"? I think he understands the scientific method.

To 3boysmom,

Discussions regarding faith and discussions regarding why science (esp. evolution) proves there is no God, which it doesn't, are two different discussions. I am interested in contributing to this blog because of Ms. Sweeney's statement that she became an atheist because of science. My interest is to explore that position by discussing what science does, and really doesn't, prove. I did not mean to imply, and I apologize if I did, that to be a Christian one has to "check your brain at the door." Not at all. I simply made the comment that many Christians I know personnally do not have the desire, energy, time, etc. to think about apologetics, science, etc. By the way, that is true of many people who are non-Christian as well, including atheists.


ben turk said...

Anonymous (anti-science)

science's precommitment to materialism is what makes our search for meaning meaningful. When we invent a hypothetical solution that cannot be judged by or based on material reality, then we are opening the door to so much self-delusion and pretty much avoiding the whole purpose of trying to understand our lives. So, yes, science is biased against religion, because religion is contrary to knowledge and understanding. Faith is by definition a closing of the mind.

science (when practiced correctly) is always open to amendment, that's what's great about science. If the scientific community began to singlemindedly accept a theory (as you [probably falsely] claim they are with evolution) then the fault is not with science, but with the community.

bookeraptor said...

Anonymous Michael says:

"how does evolution explain the appearance of the bat. Well, it must have evolved from a small mammal. Ok, where is the proof of that. Well, you see, the fossil record is incomplete. We may never find proof of that. Oh ... then how do you know it evolved from a mammal?"

I'm sure you meant evolved from another mammal, because a bat IS a mammal, Michael, but here is a link on that very subject that you and other readers of this blog may find interesting: http://www.yourskinandsun.com/batflight.html

Anonymous said...


You are correct. I did mean evolve from another mammal. Sorry I didn't make myself clear.

Interesting article. Here are my observations about it. The tests were run on bat forelimbs, which were elongated or reduced depending on how much of the gene was allowed or blocked. Tests were apparently not run on mouse forelimbs. So, there is no evidence at this point that the "Bmp2 soup" would cause mice forelimbs to extend.

Secondly, there is no evidence that this was how bat forelimbs were formed from another mammal species, only a possible mechanism for formation. Importantly, though, there was no explanation for how the intermediate mammal with elongated forelimbs would function and survive, as compared with its predecessor - which is a critical consideration.

Finally, the conjecture of the scientists conducting the experiment, if true, would turn Darwinian evolution on its head because they state that these findings would indicate that species (or at least the bat) did not evolve gradually through innumerable transitions but suddently with few key changes. That is a profound implication, further supporting the puctuated equilibrium theory and moving further away from traditional evolutionary thought.

Do all the Darwinian evolutionists realize the impact of such a proposal?


Anonymous said...

Atheism has nothing to say about how to cope with life? Not explicitly, maybe. But reading between the lines, Atheism has everything to say about how to cope with life.

It is precicely because of the fact the we are alone in (what we know of) the universe and that there is no life beyond the life our bodies enable us to have that we are solely responsible for our planet and for each other.

As long as we, as a species, hold on to make-believe absolutes to "help us cope with life," there will always be an excuse for oppression and ignorance and famine and murder and greed and the destruction of our planet.

Enjoy life while you can. It's wonderful!...and may you have the love and support of family, friends and strangers when it's not.

Anonymous said...

Traditionally, in Latin America, it was "El Niño Dios" (The Child God, Baby Jesus) that sent you presents at Christmas.

I grew up at a time when parents were trying to reconcile El Niño Dios with the "gringo" Santa Claus we saw on TV and in ads for imported merchandise. So Santa Claus was presented as a glorified FedEx guy.

Fast-forward to this generation. Santa is boss and the Baby Jesus is just an uncomfortable reminder that there are children in the world being born poor, homeless to single mothers (do you think anyone really buys the virgin birth bit?)

ben turk said...

this is totally without factual support, but on this bat evolution question, it seems more likely to me there were all kindsa half-bat half mice out there, evolving gradually for thousands of years, and once full bats arrived on the scene they rapidly and totally decimated the gliding-kinda-batlike-mouse population through competition and just being cooler, cuz bats are awesome.

No evidence, but that sure seems more likely than assuming that evolution had to speed up, or that god had to say, "Wow man, i think i'm gonna put some wings on a mouse! Huh huh, it's funny-lookin" Besides, how hard is it to find early human skeletons, and how much smaller and hard to find and not-even-being-looked-for are early bat skeletons?

With humans it makes even more sense, because our intelligence and communication abilities seem to have been accompanied by a tendancy for ethnic cleansing. Maybe early humans actively killed off anything that blurred the line between us and chimps, which is why we've now got to deal with the missing link.

bookeraptor said...

Karen Sears, who led the experiment on the BMP2 protein, did indeed apply the protein to mouse embryos, and the digits in the mice elongated just like bat digits. Here's the link: http://www.sciscoop.com/story/2004/11/11/82718/510
You seem to be confusing terms here. Punctuated equilibrium is a theory proposed by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould which addresses the tempo of evolution. It does not negate the validity of evolution at all. See Gould's essay "The Episodic Nature of Evolutionary Change" in his book The Panda's Thumb.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to be in the audience for your movie, hope you have some Earl Grey tea in the kitchen!
As a lifelong athiest, (Who grew up in the south with many fundamentalist schoolmates) I find you hit on the central issue when religion and athiesm collide. Atheism requires thought and reasoning - in organized religion you surrender the thought process to some pre-ordianed orthodoxy.
It's too easy, the bible is so broad you can posit any viewpoint and find biblical reference to back it up. In the peace movement, I have met catholic nuns who were very conscientiuos and did genuinely good work for the poor and fighting for social justice. They were serving the lord and would gladly show you scripture to show there actions were the true essence of the bible. Once I even ran across a book entitle 'Communism and the Bible.'
On the other side, turn on the 700 Club (or any of those other annoying megabucks cable channels peddling screaming lies and hate. They can also quote scripture to validate that gays are going to hell, abortion is murder, and the whole cacophany of mindless musings. For years I have been active in clinic defense at reproductive health clinics. Not once has someone quoted scripture to me, and always that annoying annointment 'Jesus loves you.' If you delve into the thought process that makes seemingly normal looking people so brainwashed (some people do it reason based, I'm usually just poking fun with them,) you get everything from people regurgitating scripture to admisssions that they talk to god. (I checked and my long distance carrier working assets does not dial to god.)
Richard Dawkins put it succinctly on a recent c-span presentation when a christian reasoned that the powers of god don't apply to physical science since they are natural powers not governed by such. (I'm paraphrasing) Mr. Dawkins reply was, 'How convenient!'
Which is the central point of my rant. It's impossible arguing with people who are so dogmatic in their ways - or you can always do what I do and say 'The bible, oh yes! I love the song of Solomon.' They talk of being liberated by whatever previously ailed them by the lord. I've learned talking to many recovering believers over the years that atheism is the true liberator and is based on thought and reason. No religion can do that.

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