Category Archives: science

Why Do Good

“where does the desire to do good come from”

Bradley left a comment on my FAQ 1 page – The Ten Commandments and Morality – as follows:

I just have a question, not a comment. If there is no transcendental being from whom we get at least some inspiration to do good, where does the desire to do good come from, and why would we have any preferences any way? I know that certain things are just naturally disliked, but what makes it uncomfortable or not to be liked?

Rather than clog up my FAQ page I’ve copied this to a new post so I can answer the question, as well as make it easier for others to answer or comment.

Well Bradley to put it simply, the desire to do good has just been bred into us, the human race would not have survived if at least most of us hadn’t wanted to instinctively do good. How long do you think humankind would last if everyone wanted to rape, steal, lie, cheat, harm or kill? Not long.

Much like you assert that “certain things are just naturally disliked” so are certain things just naturally liked.

Apart from the evolution of society needing to (mainly) do good to each other to survive [read some literature on the ethic of reciprocity, which by the way was NOT invented by Christians as some are want to believe, as to why] science has also found various chemicals in the brain, and brain functions, that indicate the desire to do good is a physical property of the body. Have a read of some articles about Oxytoxin for example.

I don’t know about you Bradley, but I find when I do something good I feel good, I get a little “kick” out of doing something good, and it makes me happy. Why would this be? Perhaps it’s chemicals in the brain? Perhaps it’s because of the knowledge that I’ve made someone happy or improved their life in some way. But why be altruistic (which is what we are talking about when we discuss doing good things for no apparent reason or expectation of return)? We know that most religions cite altruism as a virtue, but I don’t consider that religion has a ‘hold’ on altruism. In fact it has been shown that many species of animals act in an altruistic manner and that there is an evolutionary explanation for altruism.

I consider it wholly possible to do good without any transcendental being providing inspiration. Anyway, how would we know a transcendental being provided the inspiration? Could it not be that any supposed transcendental inspiration is actually our own innate goodness and inspiration? That due to a lack of knowledge, or a lack of thought, this inspiration was deemed to have come from a transcendental being only because there didn’t seem to be any other way to explain it’s existence?

Time and again science has discovered reasons for things that people thought were the actions of a transcendental being, pushing the reason for a need, or the possibility, of any transcendental being further and further into non-existence. Perhaps one day science will prove where the desire to do good comes from (from what little I’ve read they pretty well already have) or perhaps there are some things that just are. Either way I see no reason to bring any transcendental being into the equation.

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Filed under atheism, beliefs, christianity, compassion, evolution, golden rule, religion, science

Books – August 2010

Just added a new page called Books (see header) which lists all the Atheism, Philosophy, Science, Theism, and related topics, books that I own (and have, mostly, read – see Legend), updated and current as of August 2010.

Most of these used to be listed in a text widget in the sidebar, which has now been deleted.

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Is the Bible True or False

So,

Is the Bible True or False?

Or,

The Da Vinci Code Argument TM

Just because a book contains some factual references does not make the whole book factual.

There are some stories written in the Christian Bible that have archaeological, geological or other evidence to back them up; or at least indicate a strong likelihood for being based on real places, people or events. However this does not necessarily prove that what the Bible says happened to them, or what they said or did, is true or correct.

For instance, there is evidence that Jericho was an occupied area as far back as the Natufian period (10,800-8,500 BC), and in the Early / Middle Bronze Age (3100-1800 BC) had extensive defensive walls. There is also evidence that Jericho was destroyed in the Late Bronze Age (1800-1400 BC). (from The Archaeology of the Ancient City of Jericho)

However, is there evidence that the walls of Jericho were blown down at the sound of Joshua’s horn? No, and it seems highly unlikely.

We have evidence for Jericho (or at least dwellings in the area prescribed to be Jericho) actually existing and being destroyed at some stage, however, this does not prove the story of Joshua being true as there is no evidence for the sounds of horns destroying the city. True, the absence of evidence does not mean it didn’t occur, a supernatural occurrence might not leave any natural evidence, but it also doesn’t prove it did occur. Additionally it is now held that Jericho was destroyed in 1562 BCE, well over 100 years before the accepted time of the biblical story.

Despite some stories having some evidence, there are also stories for which, despite intensive searches and investigation, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, and in some cases completely contradictory evidence.

… geological investigations [have] proved without a doubt that there was no planet-wide flood as described in the Old Testament of the bible, …

from Is the Bible Fact or Fiction? History of Archaeology, Part 3 :

So, let’s not ask if the Bible is true or false. Instead, let’s ask a series of questions.

1. Did the places and cultures that are mentioned in the Bible and the other ancient texts exist? Yes, in many cases, they did. Archaeologists have found evidence for many of the locations and cultures mentioned in the ancient texts.

2. Did the events that are described in these texts happen? Some of them did; archaeological evidence in the form of physical evidence or supporting documents from other sources can be found for some of the battles, the political struggles, and the building and collapse of cities.

3. Did the mystical things that are described in the texts occur? It’s not my area of expertise, but if I were to hazard a guess, if there were miracles that occurred, they wouldn’t leave archaeological evidence. [Personally I don’t totally agree with this last statement from the author of the About.com article, some supernatural miracles could leave evidence, not necessarily evidence for their supernaturalness but evidence something happened]

4. Since the places and the cultures and some of the events that are described in these texts happened, shouldn’t we just assume that the mysterious parts also happened? No. Not any more than since Atlanta burned, Scarlett O’Hara really was dumped by Rhett Butler.

There are many many ancient texts and stories about how the world began; and many are at variance with one another. From a global human standpoint, why should one ancient text be more accepted than any other? The mysteries of the bible and other ancient texts are just that — mysteries. It is not, and never has been, within the archaeological purview to prove or disprove their reality. That is a question of faith, not science.

In my opinion, if you have to rely on faith, then in all likelihood it isn’t true.

The fact that parts of the bible are somewhat backed up by some evidence, doesn’t mean the whole of the bible is factual, especially all the supernatural elements of it. There are far too many errors in the bible, and sections for which there is no, or contradictory, evidence, for the Bible to be accepted as a factual book.

Why I call it The Da Vinci Code Argument TM. The Da Vinci Code contains a lot of facts; places, names and events that are real. It also contains a lot of “FICTS” (a made up word that represents a fiction that has some basis in fact or sounds convincing enough that it might be a fact), it is though a work of fiction. The Bible is, in a way, similar to the Da Vinci Code; it contains some factual places, names and events, it also contains some “ficts”, but overall it is a work of fiction.

When the Da Vinci Code was released there was quite an uproar among some elements of society, particularly the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church and others spent considerable time and effort debunking some of the “facts”, “ficts”, myths and legends mentioned in the book. Dan Brown may have stated some points as facts that obviously weren’t, whether this was intentional or not is debatable, but ultimately everyone knew (or should have) that the book was a work of fiction.

It’s a pity that the Catholic Church and other Christians don’t spend as much time and effort debunking their own book, the Bible has been shown to contain many factual errors, contains plagiarised versions of older myths and statements about supernatural events that can never be proved. Rather than trying to bend and twist what little facts are in the Bible into declaring the Bible factual, perhaps it’s about time the churches came out and admitted the Bible is a work of fiction?

This post was inspired by a comment on Atheist Climber’s  Scared of Death post, in which sabepashubbo questions how can we say the bible is a work of fiction when it contains some facts.

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The Cognitive Dissonance is Strong in This One

Watched an awesome video last night on ABC1 TV Compass program called: Christianity: A History – God and the Scientists; do yourself a favour and watch it (streaming video or download, about 50 minutes). The presenter Colin Blakemore (a British neurobiologist at Oxford University and Warwick University)

interviews scholars and churchmen in order to understand how science transformed Christianity over the last four centuries. He shows how scientists born of the Enlightenment realised that the laws of the universe were there to be discovered, not read about in the Bible. He argues that science is the biggest challenge Christianity has ever had to face, and that it will eventually make religion unnecessary. from ABC Compass

It was a very informative show covering some of the history of science particularly how it pertains to Christianity. Despite Christianity actually starting many universities and initially encouraging thinking, they changed their mind quite quickly when anyone discovered something that went against church dogma (Copernicus, Galileo et al). The church doesn’t come across as being very open-minded (but has it ever?) and some of the methods used to dissuade free-thinking and scientific investigation were rather cruel (an understatement, torture methods used during the inquisition were horrendous), As Blakemore points out, the church didn’t always have to actually physically torture people, sometimes the mere threat was sufficient for people to recant their (correct) ideas. Self censorship is a powerful weapon.

The cognitive dissonance shown by some of the people Blakemore interviewed was interesting, the Vatican astronomer seemed fully conversant with all the latest astronomical findings and seemed quite happy to discuss the earth being 4.5 Billion years old, but some how still managed to fit God into the equation. But the greatest cognitive dissonance shown was by Dr Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist and scientific adviser for the Creation Museum! He fully believes the biblical version of creation that God created everything in six days, that dinosaurs roamed the earth alongside humans, including Adam and Eve. I could hardly comprehend it when Lisle replied to one of Blakemore’s questions with

“If we find some experiment that seems on the surface to disagree with the word of God, we go with the word of God”

at about this stage I think a part of my brain melted from the sheer idiocy. The scientific method, which someone with a PhD in Astrophysics should know, does not allow you to disregard results of an experiment just because you don’t like those results; you have to go where the FACTS direct you, like it or not. I could not understand how someone could get a PhD in Astrophysics and be so deluded, as the title of this blog says: The Cognitive Dissonance is Strong in This One. If you just want to watch Blakemore’s visit to the Creation Museum, including the interview with Lisle, check the link, it goes for about 4 and 1/2 minutes. But be warned, the Stupid It Burns!

the_stupid_it_burns.jpg

Blakemore’s visit to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) left me wide eyed with the sheer enormity of the project, that thing is HUGE. People talk about the majesty of some religious buildings, and I agree some churches are architecturally and/or artistically inspiring, but the LHC is truly majestic in its own right.

How could anyone not be amazed with what science can achieve? How can anyone disregard scientific facts and instead accept what was written thousands of years ago by people who knew no better. We know better now, it has been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that much of what is written in the bible is wrong, that the bible is not a scientific book. So why do so many people still cling to the biblical fallacies, and prefer (misguided) belief over scientific evidence?

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Books – brief reviews

Updated my reading list in the sidebar with some new additions.

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins.

An excellent lay-persons guide to Evolution. It is such a pity that books like this have to be written to try and counter-act the complete misinformation that the Creationists, ‘Intelligent Designers’ and other narrow minded religious people spout.

Evolution is a Fact, get over it people, especially the misinformed sheep that believe anything if it come from a pulpit.

The saddest thing about this book is that the people who really need to read it won’t, in fact most will flat out refuse to.

It should be compulsory for everyone on the planet to read at least chapter 1 of this book, it would be good if this was freely available to download and read (perhaps it is?), then no one would have an excuse to use the “just a theory” pathetic argument against evolution.

Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant.

A book that tries to explain why so many Americans vote against their own best interests, and discusses the class war that no one else wants to talk about, the white American underclass. This book is written in a easy to read story-telling style but covers a lot of topics, including the American health care system (or complete lack thereof), Americans at War, and why so many Americans want a theocratic state ( a rather scary section of the book).

He does get on his soap box a few times, but overall an interesting and thought provoking read.

Blog Update

I have also added tw0 comments to my previous blog post, about my new Kindle eBook reader, that will be of great interest to any Australians who are considering buying one.

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Atheism V Christianity

I’ve read some wacky idiotic ramblings by christians before , but  Atheism Vs. Christianity: It’s all about ‘faith’ on examiner.com is one of the most laughable I’ve read in a while.

For a start his premise is all wrong, because it’s only Christianity that is all about ‘faith’; science relies on logic, experimentation, testing of ideas, etc etc. The author, Jake Jones, opens with this:

For some reason or another, Atheists feel that they need to beat you over the head with their view of creation, laws, the Bible, God, the Constitution and more.

Ha, Ha, Ha Jake, I think you meant to put the word ‘Christian’ in that sentence, instead of atheist. In case any other Christian hadn’t realised yet, one of the reasons atheists have become more vocal recently is because we are fed up with being bombarded with so much religious stuff.

Atheists, agnostics and other non-believers will always seem to quote science, scientists, NASA and others. That is a significant problem for Atheists. Science, scientists, … have been wrong on numerous occasions. … Science is not perfect, however the Bible is.

More LOL worthiness. He says “scientists, … have been wrong on numerous occasions” like it’s a bad thing? Aspects of science being proved wrong is one of science’s strengths, not weaknesses. There are way too many examples to demonstrate this, but how about an obvious one: years ago scientists said heavier than air objects would never fly, they were proven wrong as any airport will clearly demonstrate.  Is that a bad thing? No, it’s proof that science is quite happy being wrong, as long as it is proved wrong properly (throwing a bible at it doesn’t work by-the-way) . Science may not be perfect, and doesn’t usually profess to be, however it’s a damn sight more accurate than the bible.

Using scientific theory to disprove the Bible is like using gasoline to put out a fire. The reverse of that would be using the Bible to prove the existence of UFO’s, it can’t be done!

Stop, Stop, my sides are splitting from laughter. Science has been used many times to prove outright errors in the bible, it can be done, such as (from freethoughtdebater.com)

1 Kings 7:23 “He made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.” Circumference = Pi() x Diameter, which means the line would have to have been over 31 cubits. In order for this to be rounding, it would have had to overstate the amount to ensure that the line did “compass it round about.”
Lev 11:20-21: “All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.” Fowl do not go upon all four.
Lev 11:6: “And the hare, because he cheweth the cud…” Hare do not chew the cud.

There are countless others. The bible even contradicts itself on numerous occasions (see the freethoughtdebater.com site for a few examples), don’t religious people ever actually read their own book?

Jake’s article gets worse, you really should read the whole thing, it’s good for a laugh; but I don’t know what he’s got against NASA, or why he keeps incorrectly capitalising atheist?

The Bible is perfect because it is the divinely inspired, true and infallible word of God, not science. … Now don’t get me wrong, there are many things that science, scientists and yes, even NASA have discovered which have helped mankind, …

Yes, science has discovered pretty well everything that has helped mankind, including the computer Jake used to write his crazy article and the internet it was posted on.

Then he goes on about Darwin and evolution for a bit saying atheists put their trust in what Darwin wrote. He either doesn’t understand, or is just plain stupid, but it’s the 150 years of science following Darwin’s idea that scientists and others “put their trust in” when it comes to acknowledging the facts about evolution. Then he vainly tries to show he is right and that we should beleive the bible because:

The Bible is filled with witnesses to the events described in it.

Oh really! What, like witnesses to the “creation of the heavens and the earth”, or witnesses to Jesus’ so-called existence, all written at least 40 years after his death and in some instances at least 70 years later by people who hadn’t even meet him? With virtually no secular writings of this so-called significant person to back them up?

… but Atheists are not willing to believe, it’s just a fairy tail to them.

At least he got one thing correct, the bible is just a fairy tale, written by uneducated ignorant goat-herders trying to explain things they didn’t understand.

Atheists for some reason believe that out of chaos comes order; i.e. the “Big Bang theory”, and that out of that chaos came the Universe as we know it. Logical folks understand that out of chaos comes even more chaos. All one has to do to see order in the Universe is to go the NASA’s Hubble Telescope Gallery web site and look at their space Gallery! It’s amazing. The beauty and order of God’s creation is overwhelming. Yes, that is one of the great accomplishments of NASA.

Jake obviously needs to do some research, I’m fairly sure that the Big Bang theory doesn’t necessarily entail chaos, and anyway order can come from chaos. Then there are all the forces in play such as gravity, centripetal, centrifugal  etc that assisted in the formation of galaxies, stars, planets etc. It wasn’t all just chaos chaos chaos then instantaneous planetary systems.

I’m still looking for some good articles on “chaos and order”, I’ve read some before but seem to have misplaced the URLs. I was sent a link via Twitter to an article titled Life on Earth which explains the II Law of Thermodynamics and Entropy and how it applies to life on Earth, which whilst a very interesting article wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. If anyone has some scientific articles on “chaos and order” please provide links in the comments.

As to the “it’s beautiful, so god must have made it” comment, that’s just another ludicrous, illogical ‘goddidit’ statement, what sort of evidence for a god is “because it’s beautiful”? Personally I actually don’t see a whole lot of ‘order’ in some of those Hubble telescope photographs, and I’m sure others don’t, so the other part of that argument is also flawed.

I’ll leave you with his final sentence:

I truly believe that Atheists have good intentions, but they should remember this old saying; “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.

In case you hadn’t realised, not believing in god also entails in not believing in heaven or hell, so that sentence (threat ? ) is meaningless to an atheist, and don’t even think of Pascal Wagering me.

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I love Sciencey Stuff

Yesterday had some very interesting science related articles in the news, here’s a couple of excerpts:

Life’s First Spark Re-Created in the Laboratory

It’s Alive! Since the late seventies scientists have theorised how life may have started, recent experiments have validated some of those theories.

A fundamental but elusive step in the early evolution of life on Earth has been replicated in a laboratory.

Researchers synthesized the basic ingredients of RNA, a molecule from which the simplest self-replicating structures are made. from Wired Science

I admit, I don’t understand half of this stuff (I’m not a molecular biologist or even done any university level science subjects) but I think I understand enough of the fundamentals to understand how and why this all works. I also understand enough to see that no “divine intervention” is required.

I have just started reading “The Selfish Gene” which explains some of the same concepts as in the linked article. Interesting to note, the concepts raised in that book reflect what have now been achieved in the laboratory.

When Sex and Science Collide

Ancient phallus unearthed in cave

Recent archaeological digs have unearthed the final piece of an ancient artifact. That artifact is a “20cm-long, 3cm-wide stone object, which is dated to be about 28,000 years old, buried in the famous Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura.” from BBC News

A “must have” object in every Ice Age ladies collection?

The object is believed to be an Ice Age Sex Aid.

The “object” also appears to have been used to “knap, or split, flints” (sharpen or shape stone knives).

So Ladies, next time your man says he’s “hard as a rock” ask him if you can borrow it to sharpen a few knives. 🙂

There was also an excellent article in the New York Times about some of the female artefacts archaeologists have found dating back 40,000 years. However I can no longer access that article as the NYT wants me to register and log-in. Suffice to say the article discussed the many anatomically correct statues of women and women’s “private parts” that have been found in Ulm and other places. PZ has a story today about the female figurines, with the picture of them.

Quite sex obsessed our ancestors weren’t they? Though some might say  nothing much has changed in the last 40,000 years, has it?

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