Why creationists keep losing

#atheist #atheism #evolution

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There are many reasons why creationists have been unable to succeed (in the West). Evolution is still taught as a science; creationism in all its variants has been confirmed as a religious doctrine in a string of court-cases stretching over decades.

My recent epiphany on why biologists are winning is based on passion. Biologists are passionate about nature. There’s nothing easy about being a biologist. I’ve been shot at, nearly bombed by local insurrectionists, & caught some nasty tropical diseases. I’ve lost colleagues to malaria and to air-crashes.

In the process, we discover things. We find new species, we develop cures for diseases, we publish papers in peer-reviewed journals. The database Biological Abstracts records about 26,000 papers validating evolution in 2010 alone.

Creationists can’t match that. They can’t because they’re not passionate about nature. They’re not committed to understanding the natural world. They’re committed to a bronze-age fairy tale. And that’s not leading to new discoveries.There’s nothing in Biological Abstracts that supports creationism or intelligent-design being a credible alternative.

This is why biologists win. We win because we care more. We win because we have the facts and the research. We win because we don’t think sitting on our fat-arses in church is a viable scientific methodology. We win, because we are actually prepared to do the work that demonstrates evolution is true.

Sigh, a house is not a universe

#atheist #atheism

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Sometimes I get this argument popping up. It’s an argument from analogy. Kind of, because we know houses were designed and built, and a house is like the universe, it must be that the universe was designed and built by a creator.

Like most arguments from analogy, it is a weak argument*. It is not an appeal to evidence. It is an appeal to all sorts of hidden assumptions and presumptions that get attached to it. It fails simply because those assumptions aren’t shared by others.

We can test the claim that houses are designed objects. This is based on the following traits:

  • Observations: we actually see houses getting built by human agents. So far, nobody has observed a universe being built by an external agent.
  • Objective: a house has a specific objective. It provides shelter etc for the occupants. It is this use to which it is purposely built that tells us its designed. Nobody has proved that the universe has a like-objective. The universe appears entirely indifferent to our existence. It was around about 14bn years before we turned up, and will continue long after our solar-system dies.
  • Efficiency: this relatives to objective. Objects that are designed try to meet their objectives in efficient ways- needless redundancy, wastage of materials, inflated risks- all invalidate the idea of design. A vast universe that hurtles deadly space rocks at us, and bathes us in deadly UV radiation, could do with some tweaks.
  • Economy: designed artifacts are constrained by the resources available for their use. The decision to use one input over another, is driven by a conscious and deliberate observable decision. We don’t observe these substitutions occurring in the universe.

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* Indeed, if you have to make an argument based on an analogy that cannot be supported by evidence, chances are it’s fatally flawed. Please stop.

How science really works

#atheist #atheism
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One of the key ideas in science is that it’s not about proving anything is absolutely true. Claims of absolute truth are common amongst religious people. Many prominent theologians and Muslim scholars in the Middle ages claimed it was absolutely true that the sun orbited the earth. Yet despite the confidence with which this assertion of absolute truth was made, it was wrong. Claiming something as absolutely true does not do anything to the validity of that claim.

Rather any theory is, and remains testable. That means it needs both positive evidence for confirmation, and it must be falsifiable. The condition of falsifiable means every body of science, every theory must be open to refutation. In a sense, every experiment or investigation is undertaken to see if the theory is false

Given that a theory is able to explain and yield empirical facts, that confirmation continues to be accumulated, and that attempts at falsification continue to fail, a theory will be tentatively accepted. The great strength of science is that knowledge is updated to take into account new empirical evidence. The theory of Plate Tectonics for instance, was widely adopted by geologists after subduction of plates was observed trenches. This new empirical evidence was crucial to getting the theory accepted.

It is therefore nonsensical to demand that science proves something as absolutely true. What science can do is demonstrate that some theories are false and that some theories are supported by evidence.

Let there be no doubt that as they are currently practiced, there is no common ground between science and religion. … The claims of science rely on experimental verification, while the claims of religions rely on faith. These are irreconcilable approaches to knowing, which ensures an eternity of debate wherever and whenever the two camps meet.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, “Holy Wars” (1 October 1999)

(via Jerry Coyne)

People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon… Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but the sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, not the earth.

Martin Luther (arguing against heliocentric solar system proposed by Copernicus)

The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos.

Stephen Jay Gould