Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Intelligent design?

Exposing "god's words"

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

PBS Nova: Judgment Day



Part 1







Part 2







Part 3







Part 4







Part 5







Part 6







Part 7







Part 8







Part 9







Part 10







Part 11







Part 12





Richard Dawkins - The Argument from Beauty

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nowhere to hide for the Fundies! - New Breakthrough in Gene origin


New Method Can Reveal Ancestry Of All Genes Across Many Different Genomes



ScienceDaily (Sep. 17, 2007) — The wheels of evolution turn on genetic innovation -- new genes with new functions appear, allowing organisms to grow and adapt in new ways. But deciphering the history of how and when various genes appeared, for any organism, has been a difficult and largely intractable task.

Now a team led by scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has broken new ground by developing a method, described in the September 6 advance online edition of Nature, that can reveal the ancestry of all genes across many different genomes. First applied to 17 species of fungi, the approach has unearthed some surprising clues about why new genes pop up in the first place and the biological nips and tucks that bolster their survival.

"Having the ability to trace the history of genes on a genomic scale opens the doors to a vast array of interesting and largely unexplored scientific questions," said senior author Aviv Regev, an assistant professor of biology at MIT and a core member of the Broad Institute. Although the principles laid out in the study pertain to fungi, they could have relevance to a variety of other species as well.

It has been recognized for decades that new genes first arise as carbon copies of existing genes. It is thought that this replication allows one of the gene copies to persist normally, while giving the other the freedom to acquire novel biological functions. Though the importance of this so-called gene duplication process is well appreciated -- it is the grist for the mill of evolutionary change -- the actual mechanics have remained murky, in part because scientists have lacked the tools to study it systematically.

Driven by the recent explosion of whole genome sequence data, the authors of the new study were able to assemble a natural history of more than 100,000 genes belonging to a group of fungi known as the Ascomycota. From this, the researchers gained a detailed view of gene duplication across the genomes of 17 different species of fungi, including the laboratory model Saccharomyces cerevisiae, commonly known as baker's yeast.

The basis for the work comes from a new method termed "SYNERGY", which first author Ilan Wapinski and his coworkers developed to help them reconstruct the ancestry of each fungal gene. By tracing a gene's lineage through various species, the method helps determine in which species the gene first arose, and if -- and in what species -- it became duplicated or even lost altogether. SYNERGY draws its strength from the use of multiple types of data, including the evolutionary or "phylogenetic" tree that depicts how species are related to each other, and the DNA sequences and relative positions of genes along the genome.

Perhaps most importantly, the method does not tackle the problem of gene origins in one fell swoop, as has typically been done, but rather breaks it into discrete, more manageable bits. Instead of treating all species at once, SYNERGY first focuses on a pair of the most recently evolved species -- those at the outer branches of the tree -- and works, two-by-two, toward the more ancestral species that comprise the roots.

From this analysis, Regev and her colleagues were able to identify a set of core principles that govern gene duplication in fungi. The findings begin to paint a picture of how new genes are groomed over hundreds of millions of years of evolution.

The study was supported by grants from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Kelly Resonds to Michael Brendan Dougherty




One of the methods used by the religious to marginalize atheists and our increasing visibility is to accuse us of becoming that which we originally opposed, or in other words, just like them. It’s even better if they have the convenience of one experience with these so-called “secular fundamentalists” from which they can draw unfounded conclusions as to the validity of this argument and, ultimately, the character of all those who have no belief in gods, goddesses, or other mythical creatures.

This is the route taken by Michael Brendan Dougherty in the November issue of The American Conservative. His article, entitled “Secular Fundamentalists: Can atheists form a movement around shared disbelief”, uses this year’s Atheist Alliance International convention as fodder for his clumsy attempt to represent atheism as a new phenomenon comprised of the dogmatically anti-religious.

The title alone is an oxymoron—would Mr. Dougherty mind explaining the fundamentals of secularism before he starts labeling us as adherents to them? He tries to use Sam Harris’ speech about the word “atheist” and the subsequent reaction as proof of this claim, pointing out the discomfort of the audience during his speech. He goes on to assume that Sam Harris would prefer that there be no AAI conference next year, which is only true in one scenario—that in which religion is no longer a menace to society and has been effectively stripped of its power.

Of course, according to Mr. Dougherty, the only reason we get together is to tell jokes about pedophile priests and fight the morality imposed upon us by the “prudes and prigs” who surround us, it is really unnecessary since all of this can be done online anyway. As a matter of fact, most of the conference attendees or those with whom I have spoken regarding Harris’ speech, which was reprinted in The Washington Post, were pleased to see a dissenting position presented, even if some may have disagreed with that position. This is an example of the very thing that makes atheism different from religion; we’re allowed to ask questions and present our differences of opinion. There’s no excommunication from atheism. Apparently, he hung around for the Q&A, but failed to mention that in my question to Sam, I stated that I agreed conceptually but see no other way to gain any influence as a group by avoiding the one word under which we can unite. Harris agrees with that, and furthermore, I think that as atheists, we all agree that we would prefer to live in a world in which the word was not even necessary.

Dougherty goes on to the addition of Harris’ somewhat controversial affinity for meditation. He adds the jab frequently used against us, that we hate all religions, rather than just not believing in them, and goes on to misrepresent Daniel Dennett’s comment that he himself had been practicing meditation. Of course, in his mind, the audience was deeply troubled by this, despite the fact that meditation does not necessarily have a religious connotation and does have scientific evidence to show that similar contemplative practices have health benefits. Meditation may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but there were certainly some in the audience who understand this point, but mentioning that would undermine his initial claim that we are “fundamentalists.” So he chooses to be dishonest instead, proclaiming that “the leaders of unbelief are exposed as potential monks and mystics.”

At least we still have Hitchens, whom he briefly addresses by using the well-worn “he’s just angry at God” argument. He then finds it humorous that conference attendees are excited by the opportunity to meet these distinguished individuals, and points out a person that had a conversation with Hitchens and was ecstatic, claiming that this is a form of “idol worship” and a religion of its own. If that is true, then Christians are assuredly in violation of their precious commandments by idolizing their own batch of celebrities such as Rick Warren, Dinesh D’Souza, or Lee Strobel. Being happy to meet a person that you admire and respect, who has potentially influenced your life through their work, is now a religion, folks. Again, nothing other than juvenile and amateur attempts to disparage atheists and a simple restatement of that childish taunt, “I know you are but what am I?”

In an egregious violation of journalistic objectivity, he goes on to personally insult Margaret Downey, referring to her as a “dippy hostess.” Margaret has fought for the rights of atheists and gays to join the Boy Scouts, has given a presentation to the United Nations on the discrimination of atheists, and is still the UN expert on atheist discrimination in the US. She has worked tirelessly for years on end and put her own life at risk to make separation of church and state a reality, not just some words on an aged document· The fact that he would have the audacity to refer to one of the most influential women in the world of atheism as he did displays the utter lack of respect and contempt that he holds for those who do not worship his imaginary friend, yet he wonders why we feel the need to rally together, speak up, and rattle cages.

The fact that, in his opinion, holding a conference qualifies your group as a “movement” is mildly amusing. I guess that makes attendees of “Star Trek” conventions members of a pro-Star Trek movement. In much the same way that the aforementioned “Trekkies” are chided for having their apparel, costumes, and merchandise, Dougherty goes on to more trivial evidences of this subversive “atheist movement.”

Apparently, Dougherty finds “young men with haircuts fit for their mother’s basement” a valid point upon which to base an argument that we are nothing more than a “cranky subculture” that wants to ridicule religion much as a teenager wants to rebel against his/her parents. He interestingly notes that we did not view “The Passion of the Christ” and instead chose “Life of Brian”. I take it he didn’t consider that we atheists have no desire to watch a man brutally tortured and ultimately murdered for two and a half hours. I consider that to be a good thing, and would certainly allow my children to watch “Life of Brian” before that snuff film of which he apparently approves.

He comes back to the worst insult Christians have to offer, which is the conflation of atheism to a religion itself. It is about time that atheists come together at conferences and stand up for ourselves in a country dominated by irrationality. How ironic that the best argument he can muster is that we’re just like them. He claims that the conference “provides plenty of evidence” by “[resembling] an evangelical retreat weekend.” Wouldn’t any conference probably have similarities; such as there were speakers, there were meetings, and an amalgamation of people hanging out conversing? Again, if the Church of Star Trek hasn’t been founded already, it is now, whether the fans agree or not. He completely ignores the valid criticisms of religious belief and insists on using ridicule and insults to make the entire concept seem silly, much like Christianity. Is he projecting his own feelings regarding the absurdity of his own religion, maybe?

He attacks Julia Sweeney as a “D-list celebrity” eager for a second career as an atheist spokesperson. The fact that she does a monologue based on her personal experience with religion escapes him, and once again, he sardonically quips that she must be fun on dates after she recounts a story about debating evolution while out with a former romantic interest. Watch out ladies and gentlemen—we’ve entered the “no-humor” zone.

The ad hominems don’t stop there, either. His next target is Greydon Square, and Dougherty can’t stop himself from painting him as a thug with a rap sheet. We all know that getting arrested completely discredits a person despite the validity of their beliefs or lack thereof in this case. Any journalist with credibility would at least have done his research and known that Greydon was released that day—his only charge being an unpaid ticket. We can add this to the list of half-truths purposely written by Dougherty and designed to deceive the readers.

Coming full circle back to Sam Harris, he quotes Sam from The End of Faith as saying, “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.” Not only is this completely skewed and out of context, he presumes that nobody would contemplate this statement. If you had the ability to stop the 9/11 hijackers before they boarded the planes that eventually slammed into buildings, killing thousands, would you have? What if lethal force was the only means by which it was possible? It is certainly a delicate subject, but it is not presented accurately in Dougherty’s piece. Dougherty’s defense then consists of the absurd claim that, “The Inquisition at least allowed defendants the chance to recant—often many times.” Yes, they did, offer a choice between keeping one’s integrity and dying or lying about one’s lack of belief and remaining alive. What a stunning example of Christian generosity and kindness. Maybe we should watch two and a half hours of that at next year’s AAI conference.

Finally, we have Richard Dawkins. Even this criticism isn’t bereft of superficial personal attacks, as he refers to Prof. Dawkins as “owl-faced” and “ignorant of religious people as a species.” Apparently, a speciation event occurred that officially separates the logical from the illogical; the reason-based from the faith-based. Unfortunately, it’s not true (sorry if he got anybody’s hopes up).

He argues that Dawkins’ proposition that religious indoctrination is tantamount to child abuse and that we should refrain from labeling our children as a particular religion is reductive and tendentious. Dougherty claims that religion is not a “mere set of mental propositions” and is, in fact, a way of life started at birth. I don’t imagine that Dawkins would disagree with the latter, but the issue is one of choice and the autonomy of children. It concerns the routine obfuscation that occurs when parents lie to their children with regards to evolution, history and the value of faith as a reasonable methodology. Many who have suffered from this treatment do not possess the ability to deprogram themselves as adults, and thus logic and rationality have been suppressed for yet another generation.

If he has no problem with that concept, why is it that he aims to make Julia Sweeney look like a child abuser for telling her daughter that they don’t believe in God? If the general consensus is that pushing religion on your children is not an issue, then why is the advocacy of non-religion? Why was there such a backlash to our own Blasphemy Challenge, largely because teens were being “targeted” by the evil atheists? It is the obvious hypocrisy that is most problematic here—indoctrination from Christian parents is fine, but atheist parents need to keep their lack of belief to themselves. The hazard represented by this mode of thought is actualized in the many cases of discrimination against atheist parents in child custody cases.

This article was nothing short of a long list of intellectually inept claims peppered with personal attacks which do more to reveal the character of the author than his intended targets. Michael Brendan Dougherty should be ashamed of himself for exploiting the kindness of the atheists at the conference who spoke with him in order to purposely malign and misrepresent us. His penchant for focusing on irrelevant, superficial details, such as age, clothing or hair-style, was deftly demonstrated in this piece, which I can only describe as being a supremely dishonest polemic aimed at the continued marginalization of atheists. Hopefully, his lack of journalistic integrity will prevent him from getting a press pass at any future events.

Here is the original article.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

Silly fundies acting like crazy asses they are







Bart Ehrman - Lecture on Early Greek Manuscripts

Summary of Curriculum Vitae

  • Ph.D. Princeton Theological Seminary (magna cum laude), 1985
  • M.Div. Princeton Theological Seminary, 1981
  • B.A. Wheaton College, Illinois (magna cum laude), 1978

Principal Areas of Research Interest: New Testament Interpretation; History of Ancient Christianity (first three centuries), especially Orthodoxy and Heresy, Formation of the Canon, NT Manuscript Tradition, Historical Jesus, and Apostolic Fathers;

Secondary Areas of Interest: Jewish-Christian Relations in Antiquity; Greco-Roman Religions; Christianization of the Roman World.

Bart Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He came to UNC in 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University.

Prof. Ehrman completed his M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees at Princeton Seminary, where his 1985 doctoral dissertation was awarded magna cum laude. Since then he has published extensively in the fields of New Testament and Early Christianity, having written or edited nineteen books, numerous articles, and dozens of book reviews. Among his most recent books are a college-level textbook on the New Testament, two anthologies of early Christian writings, a study of the historical Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet (Oxford Univesity Press), and a Greek-English Edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library (Harvard University Press).

Prof. Ehrman has served as President of the Southeast Region of the Society of Biblical literature, chair of the New Testament textual criticism section of the Society, book review editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature, and editor of the monograph series The New Testament in the Greek Fathers (Scholars Press). He currently serves as co-editor of the series New Testament Tools and Studies (E. J. Brill) and on several other editorial boards for monographs in the field.

Winner of numerous university awards and grants, Prof. Ehrman is the recipient of the 1993 UNC Undergraduate Student Teaching Award, the 1994 Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement, and the Bowman and Gordon Gray Award for excellence in teaching.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

More Christian Lunacy

100 Categories of Evidence Against Noah’s Flood

100 Categories of Evidence Against Noah’s Flood

1. Angular unconformities – Angular unconformities are where sediments are laid down in layers, then tilted and eroded, then new sediments are deposited on top. How does a global flood simultaneously deposit, tilt, and erode in the same exact place?

2. Radiometric dating – All common forms of radiometric dating, including C14, K-Ar, Ar-Ar, Rb-Sr, Th-Pb, U-Pb, and fission track. The dates derived from these diverse methods, when properly interpreted rather than intentionally misapplied, show that all but the very most recent deposits in the geologic column is vastly older than any postulated flood.

3. Fossil Sorting – The sorting of fossils in the geologic record is consistent with evolution and geology across all formations worldwide. There are basically no fossils of dinosaurs found with modern mammals, even when such dinosaurs could fly. There are no flowering plants in the Cambrian, no grasses, no mammals, and no birds. The overall sorting does not show any evidence consistent with a flood or settling in water.

4. Varves – How does one create 20 million annual layers, each layer which would have taken at least a month to settle due to hydrodynamics as is observed in the Green River Formation? How does one explain seasonal of pollen grains found in the layers?

5. Sedimentation rates – Why would there be Precambrian rocks below ones feet in the Canadian Shield area, yet the entire geologic column in the Williston Basin in North Dakota? Why would a global flood scour down to the Precambrian in one place yet at the same time deposit tens of thousands of feet of sediment in another when it is exactly the same process? Giant post-pyramid ice ages are not an explanation as there is no written record or other evidence of increased historical glaciation to the extent needed to scour the Canadian Shield down in the last 4500 years, not to mention such Precambrian rocks elsewhere on Earth like South Africa.

6. Lava layers with ancient soils between flows – How could lava forms which only exist with a land surface interface create interbedded deposits with paleosoils?

7. Ice sheets – Ice caps can't reform in the time allotted since any global flood of 4500 years ago.

8. Ice core data with correlated known volcanic events – Ice cores can be dated back by multiple methods nearly a million years, yet show no evidence of a global flood.

9. Ocean core data – Ocean cores would show unsorted piles of terrestrial life and different distributions in grain sizes than observed. They would also show little difference in thickness between the mid Atlantic ridge and near subduction zones, which is not what is observed.

10. Paleomagnetism – Because the Earth's magnetic field has reversed polarity and has wandered over the globe in the past, certain igneous rocks show such preferred magnetic orientations when sufficiently cooled. By mapping these directions and reversals, which correlate with radioisotope dating and stratigraphy, it is easily shown that the vast majority of seafloor sediments, along with most volcanic rock, are way too old to have been deposited by any flood. In fact such measurements are one of the great evidences for plate tectonics, which alone invalidate a global flood.

11. Volcanism – According to 'flood geology' every igneous rock layer that overlays sedimentary rock would have to be less than 4500 years old. Yet, historical records indicate this tremendous amount of simultaneous volcanic activity could not have occurred in recent times because someone would have noticed, becoming extinct and all when the atmosphere becomes unbreathable. Such a position directly contradicts the existence of the Deccan Traps which are up to 2 km thick and 500,000 square km in extent, yet supposedly erupted in India despite any historic evidence, after such a flood.

12. Ore deposit formation rates – Most ore deposits require a longer period of time to separate their constituent elements and then cool to create an economically viable source of minerals.

13. Evaporites – The existence of evaporate deposits thousands of feet thick are incompatible with any global flood as they are formed through evaporation rather than through the addition of fresh water.

14. Carbonates – The huge amount of CO2 in the atmosphere prior to being locked into carbonate rock would have made the planet resemble Venus. There would have been no life to drown.

15. Microfossil deposits - Thick deposits of microfossils in limestone, diatomaceous chert, and chalk that could not settle to such a degree of thickness in the time allotted for any global flood.

16. Thick deposits of sand - Sand is the result of weathering and working of formally solid formations, requiring long long times to form and accumulate.

17. Aeolian sand deposits – Wind deposited sandstone is found above and below water deposited limestone. One example is the Cococino formation which is both overlain and overlies limestone.

18. Overthrust formations – the time and pressure required to cause overthrust formations is far greater than can occur in any post-flood historic time.

19. Formation of geologic features such as mountains and valleys – How did something like the Himalaya Mountains form without anyone noticing all those earthquakes? How were valleys cut between such mountains in less than 4500 years?

20. Heat of formation – I can't explain this topic any better than has already been done.
From http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-noahs-ark.html
quote:
________________________________________

• If the geologic record was deposited in a year, then the events it records must also have occurred within a year. Some of these events release significant amounts of heat.
• Magma. The geologic record includes roughly 8 x 10E24 grams of lava flows and igneous intrusions. Assuming (conservatively) a specific heat of 0.15, this magma would release 5.4 x 10E27 joules while cooling 1100 degrees C. In addition, the heat of crystallization as the magma solidifies would release a great deal more heat.
• Limestone formation. There are roughly 5 x 10E23 grams of limestone in the earth's sediments [Poldervaart, 1955], and the formation of calcite releases about 11,290 joules/gram [Weast, 1974, p. D63]. If only 10% of the limestone were formed during the Flood, the 5.6 x 10E26 joules of heat released would be enough to boil the flood waters.
• Meteorite impacts. Erosion and crustal movements have erased an unknown number of impact craters on earth, but Creationists Whitcomb and DeYoung suggest that cratering to the extent seen on the Moon and Mercury occurred on earth during the year of Noah's Flood. The heat from just one of the largest lunar impacts released an estimated 3 x 10E26 joules; the same sized object falling to earth would release even more energy. [Fezer, pp. 45-46]
• Other. Other possibly significant heat sources are radioactive decay (some Creationists claim that radioactive decay rates were much higher during the Flood to account for consistently old radiometric dates); biological decay (think of the heat released in compost piles); and compression of sediments.
5.6 x 1026 joules is enough to heat the oceans to boiling. 3.7 x 10E27 joules will vaporize them completely. Since steam and air have a lower heat capacity than water, the steam released will quickly raise the temperature of the atmosphere over 1000 C. At these temperatures, much of the atmosphere would boil off the Earth.
Aside from losing its atmosphere, Earth can only get rid of heat by radiating it to space, and it can't radiate significantly more heat than it gets from the sun unless it is a great deal hotter than it is now. (It is very nearly at thermal equilibrium now.) If there weren't many millions of years to radiate the heat from the above processes, the earth would still be unlivably hot.
________________________________________

21. River meanders – River meanders incised in rock can only be caused by gradual uplift, not through a year's worth of soft sediment deposition.

22. Large and extensive river potholes – As this is one of Iceage's, I will defer the explanation to him, although I wouldn't mind his input on others he brought up as well.

23. Glacial weathering – glacial deposits and weathering such as U-shaped valleys require longer than 4500 years to form.

24. Independent dating correlations – See Correlations Correlations Correlations (Message 1 of Thread Age Correlations and An Old Earth, Version 2 No 1 in Forum Proposed New Topics) enjoy!

25. Batholith formation – Why isn't the Sierra Nevada granitic batholith still hot as it would have taken several million years to cool?

26. Differential weathering – How could the Sierra Nevada and the Appalachians show such different weathering if each are the exact same age of only 4500 years old?

27. Banded iron formations and red beds – Banded iron formations can't form in the presence of significant oxygen. Yet they were supposedly deposited in a flood which supposedly allowed animals to breathe both before and after.

28. Water in confined aquifers – The chemistry of water may be measured as to its constituents, as any municipal water authority already knows. Under flood conditions, the water chemistry in a confined aquifer would have changed as lower elevation aquifers would contain more salt than higher aquifers as the flood waters diluted the salt content in the recharge zone. Not only is this behavior not shown by any known confined aquifer, but the age of such water according to the laws of physics is vastly older than any flood may have deposited.

29. Worldwide iridium layer – Although any worldwide flood evidence is lacking, there is a worldwide iridium layer at the K-T boundary where it exists. How could this iridium layer have been deposited among all those swirling waters in a flood?

30. Deformed structures in metamorphosed sediments – There are areas in metamorphic rock where pebbles and even fossils have been stretched and deformed in processes that would have taken several times any 4500 years since a global flood.

31. Compression of all fossil life into too short a time period – If all species represented by fossils, coal, and petroleum from throughout the geologic record lived simultaneously, they would have been standing on each other, an ecological impossibility.

32. Differential mineralization of fossils – Remains of buried humans in historic times show minimal mineralization. This increases overall with extinct mammals, then extinct dinosaurs, then extinct trilobites and ammonites.

33. Surface features buried throughout geologic column – Examples include: rain drops, river channels, wind-blown dunes, beaches, glacial deposits, burrows, in-place trees, soils, desiccation cracks, footprints.

34. Pollen sorting – Why is pollen sorted according to evolutionary principles instead of hydrodynamic principles in the geologic record?

35. Inconsistent worldwide geologic formations – Any flood would have left a single layer of similar sediment worldwide, not the tremendous amount and variety of layers that exist in each of the thousands of boreholes and outcrops in geology.

36. Existence of soil after flood – Soil is a delicate mixture of organic and inorganic materials. How could any soil exist after an environment that was supposedly turbulent enough to destroy all the earth's crust?

37. Tectonic spreading rates – Observed tectonic spreading rates indicate that there is no evidence of any disturbance due to any global flood 4500 years ago.

38. Tar pits – If all petroleum was caused by some global flood, how can there be tar pits filled with land fossils that have not become coal or oil?

39. Caverns – Caverns carved from dolomite such as exist in West Texas can't form in as little as 4500 years.

40. Oklo and other natural reactors – Such natural reactors could not have been formed a mere 4500 years ago unless the laws of physics involving radioactive decay are violated.

41. Multiple glaciations – There are at least four major separate evidences of glaciations in the geologic record separated by eons. How could all four occur during a flood while supposedly underwater?

42. Meteoric impacts – For the evidence of meteoric impacts to be buried under sediments indicate that such impacts all occurred in the span of one year. Such a bombardment would allow for no life due to a lack of sun.

43. Hydrocarbon formation – The amount of hydrocarbon deposits in the ground from organic causes represent a greater biomass than is possible to have formed within 4500 years.

44. Conglomerates within conglomerates within conglomerates within conglomerates – Conglomerates are made up of diverse weathered rock that is eroded then recemented. In order to have a 4th level conglomerate there needs to be four episodes of weathering and recementation of rocks which are often impossible to form and erode in 4500 years such as when some within the conglomerate matrix are igneous or metamorphic rock.

45. Change in physical properties of rock correlated with age and fossil content – The older the sedimentary rock under current scientific models, in most cases the greater its compaction. How would near-simultaneous deposition explain this observation?

46. Delicate structures preserved in supposed turbulence – Delicate structures such as insect wings and feathers are preserved in rock. How could a turbulence that supposedly weathers miles of consolidated rock simultaneously preserve delicate structures?

47. Coprolites – Coprolites, which are fossilized turds, are preserved throughout the fossil record. How does a flood have animals constantly crapping in the midst of a flood after they are exterminated?

48. Meteoric dust accumulation – Both ice cores and evaporates indicate meteoric dust accumulates at a roughly steady rate over time. How can this dust remain constant under contracted meteoric bombardment?

49. Desert varnish – Desert varnish is created by microorganisms in arid conditions over a period of hundreds of years. How could such varnish be created throughout the geologic record in flood conditions?

50. Multiple layers of fossil forests – How can a single flood explain multiple fossil forest layers such as can be seen at Joggins, Nova Scotia or Yellowstone?

51. Detailed layering – How could a global flood create thousands of layers seen in several geologic formations, each of which requires a different depositional environment?

52. Lack of any geologic evidence for a global flood – While there are dozens of categories representing millions of data points of evidence against Noah's Flood, I know of no single piece of geologic evidence in favor of Noah's Flood.

Bioscience – I have little familiarity with this subject so I am sure that the number and quality of categories here could be improved and even increased by those with more expertise. Sorry about appropriating some dual categories under geoscience, perhaps a new dual meta-category would be appropriate.

53. Observed genetic diversity – The genetic diversity in all animals indicate that there was no genetic bottleneck.

54. Non-viable size of genetic population – A parent population of one or even seven pairs of animals is not genetically viable. Such inbreeding quickly causes fatal mutations.

55. Food requirements of animals – Some animals such as Koalas require very specific diets. How could these dietary requirements been provided, and who could keep up with such variable requirements on a ship?

56. Mobility considerations – How did sloths or other slow-moving animals get to any ark and how did they migrate from any ark without a trace in the time allotted?

57. Symbiotic relationships – Several species have a sole source of nutrition. How did these creatures exist during or after a global flood?

58. Parasites – Parasites require hosts in order to survive. Were all creatures on any ark hosts and how did they survive such parasitism?

59. Diseases – Diseases that exist today require hosts to survive. How did all the infected animals survive simultaneously being hosts to every disease currently around?

60. Social Insects – one pair of ants, bees or termites do not constitute a viable unit for survival.

61. Short-lived life forms – Mayflies only live a few days. How could they reproduce in a barge in a non-riparian environment?

62. Life forms older than flood – The oldest bristlecone pines are 5700 years old, they can't survive underwater for any appreciable amount of time.

63. Vegetation – Neither most vegetation nor their seeds can survive under salt water. Nor can such vegetation root and thrive in salt encrusted 'soil' (which also largely didn't exist immediately after any flood).

64. Food requirements subsequent to a flood - If a flood wiped out all but a pair of animals and plants, there would be insufficient food for any survivors.

65. Aquatic life - There are fresh water fish, salt water fish, and brackish fish, how could all survive in the same environment?

66. Tree ring data – Rings on currently living trees that indicate they are older than 4500 years do not indicate that they were drowned and died at the time of any proposed global flood.

67. Coral clocks – Annual coral growth is correlated to the number of days per year in the deep past. Such clocks indicate a slowing of Earth's rotation consistent with physics and not a 4500 year maximum age of coral reefs.

68. Population growth subsequent to any flood – The population growth of humans necessary to produce pyramids, great walls, and great empires is insufficient to have a bottleneck of under a dozen individuals 4500 years ago. The population growth of prey species would be insufficient to support a 90-10 prey-predator ratio immediately after any devastating flood.

69. Coccolithophores – How could these creatures that bloom, oversaturate their environment and then die off have created so many and such thick deposits in the geologic record in so little time during a turbulent flood? (credit to Lithodid-Man)

70. Interdependent ecosystems – How were interdependent ecosystems where life requires a complex web of relationships preserved during and after a global flood?

71. Food pyramid – how could the predation relationship be preserved with only a pair of creatures at the bottom of the chain?

72. Difference between clean/unclean genome – Why do the seven pairs of clean animals not show any greater genetic diversity than the single pairs of unclean animals?

73. Aquatic fossils – Why are fossils from shallow marine environments far more common than all others if there was more land than water prior to any global flood?

74. Lack of any biologic evidence for a global flood – While there are dozens of categories representing millions of data points of evidence against Noah's Flood, I know of no single piece of biologic evidence in favor of Noah's Flood.

Engineering – Have some familiarity, but once again, it was a long time ago that it was a part of formal instruction.

75. Loading the ark – Animals and plants would have to enter the Ark in pairs within the space of a few seconds apart.

76. Amount of space – The amount of space provided by the Ark would not come near to enough to hold all species, genus, or even families observed today.

77. Construction – The construction of an object the supposed size of the ark using the tools available at the time is far greater than the size of the construction crew within the time allotted.

78. Materials – The Ark was supposedly constructed of 'gopherwood' which shows no evidence of having ever existed. Also, wood as a sole construction material would not be able to withstand the stresses on any ship and would likely capsize at the first opportunity.

79. Ventilation – Animals require air to survive. A single window would provide insufficient ventilation for the body heat and fresh air produced by wall-to-wall biomass.

80. Leakage – A wooden ship of this size would flex due to stress to such a degree that no tar type sealant would work to prevent leakage and eventual sinking within a few days.

81. Waste removal – The crew of the Ark would be insufficient to clear the ship of body waste. The stinking hulk would probably kill all life aboard before a few months had past.

82. Humidity – Many animals and plants, particularly those adapted to deserts, would quickly die in an environment of 100% humidity.

83. Food storage – How could Noah preserve food in 100% humidity among all those microorganisms, mold, and disease causing agents without modern refrigeration for nearly a year?

Addendum - Problems with 'kinds' – Many of the above objections are limited through the introduction of the undefined concept of 'kinds.' The 'kinds' argument fails however because to create the present diversity of life, biologic forms would have to undergo superhyperfragalisticmicromacro evolution, an absurd concept with no evidence and completely void of common sense such as demanding that housecats give birth to lions. It also supposedly is designed to show that evolution does not occur because of greater past evolution, a clear logical contradiction of unbelievable magnitude.
Archeology – Open to suggestions, no training here.

84. Ancient nature of most civilizations – Most civilizations have precursors that indicate a clear evolution of culture and technology through time without any bottleneck. The time allotted for such cultural development is most likely insufficient under any Noah Flood scenario.

85. Oetzi – Oetzi provides an example of a 'pre-flood' mummified individual dated and correlated by multiple methods. Where is the water damage?

86. No human activity in deeper layers – There are no indications of human activity, or even humans, in any geologic layers prior to the Pleistocene.

Linguistics - Open to suggestions, no training here.

87. Language variation – Because languages diverge by a set amount over time, and these have been reasoned to have diverged considerably prior to Noah's Flood, linguistics represents another element of evidence against Noah's Flood.

History – Please suggest and supplement my haphazard studies.

88. Egyptian history – Why did the Egyptians not mention a flood during their monument building period?

89. Sargon and the Akkadian Empire – How could Sargon conquer Sumeria and create the Akkadian Empire either underwater or immediately after a global flood with no troops?

90. Mohenjo Daro – Why does this 'pre-flood' city show no evidence of a global flood?

91. Chinese civilization – Why were the Chinese building canals during a flood?

92. Differential technology level between cultures – If all cultures started at the same level of technological skill 4500 years ago how could most cultures have advanced or deteriorated so quickly relative to each other?

93. Independent primary food sources between cultures – As cited in the book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond different cultures depended upon different food sources. For example the Aztecs had corn, the Incas had potatoes, the Egyptians had wheat, and the Chinese had rice. If these cultures and their foodstuffs were all in contact 4500 years ago, why did they not show a greater diversity in food sources such as we have today?

94. Inconsistency of flood myths – The prevalence of flood myths among diverse cultures is often cited as evidence for Noah's Flood. However, the vast difference in the details of nearly each culture's flood myth actually provides evidence against a single global event.

Biblical Scripture – I'm sure many could add here as they are much better versed in the Bible. (False gods in lowercase)

95. Use of parables in the Bible – If Jesus explicitly taught in parables why do some believe that can't ever be applied to the OT as well? Are they better informed about god's intentions than Jesus?

96. Why use a flood? – Instead of wiping out all animals and children along with 'his' creation, why didn't god just punish the unrighteous?

97. Why punish those who use their god-created minds - Why would a just god reward those who hate science and show it by attacking it via the literal interpretation of Noah's story and punish those who use science to save lives?

Miscellaneous Categories

98. No plausible mechanism to explain where water came from – Overhead 'vapor canopies' and underground 'fountains' violate the most basic principles of physics. There is no explanation of where the water came from.

99. No plausible mechanism to explain where water went – No remotely valid or rational explanation has been propounded to explain where such flood waters retreated to.

100. Dubious motives of many who seek to conflate religion and science – Many of the well-known originators and staunch defenders of the war against science are proven liars and even convicted criminals, usually for using religion to line their pockets. Why should any thinking and/or moral person accept their rants as gospel?

Abiogenesis - Creationist lies exposed!

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics,
and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations



Introduction

Every so often, someone comes up with the statement "the formation of any enzyme by chance is nearly impossible,therefore abiogenesis is impossible". Often they cite an impressive looking calculation from the astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, or trot out something called "Borel's Law" to prove that life is statistically impossible. These people,including Fred, have committed one or more of the following errors.

Problems with the creationists' "it's so improbable"calculations

1) They calculate the probability of the formation of a"modern" protein, or even a complete bacterium with all"modern" proteins, by random events. This is not the abiogenesis theory at all.

2) They assume that there is a fixed number of proteins, with fixed sequences for each protein, that are required for life.

3) They calculate the probability of sequential trials, rather than simultaneous trials.

4) They misunderstand what is meant by a probability calculation.

5) They seriously underestimate the number of functionalenzymes/ribozymes present in a group of random sequences.

I will try and walk people through these various errors,and show why it is not possible to do a "probability of abiogenesis" calculation in any meaningful way.

A primordial protoplasmic globule

So the calculation goes that the probability of forming a given 300 amino acid long protein (say an enzyme like carboxypeptidase) randomly is (1/20)300 or 1chance in 2.04 x 10390, which is astoundingly,mind-beggaringly improbable. This is then cranked up by adding on the probabilities of generating 400 or so similarenzymes until a figure is reached that is so huge that merely contemplating it causes your brain to dribble out your ears. This gives the impression that the formation of even the smallest organism seems totally impossible.However, this is completely incorrect.

Firstly, the formation of biological polymers from monomers is a function of the laws of chemistry and biochemistry, and these are decidedly not random.

Secondly, the entire premise is incorrect to start off with, because in modern abiogenesis theories the first"living things" would be much simpler, not even a proto-bacteria, or a preproto-bacteria (what Oparin called a protobiont [8] and Woese calls a progenote [4]), but one or more simple molecules probably not more than 30-40 subunits long. Thesesimple molecules then slowly evolved into more cooperative self-replicating systems, then finally into simpleorganisms [2, 5, 10, 15,28]. An illustration comparing a hypothetical protobiont and a modern bacteria is given below.



The first "living things" could have been a single self replicating molecule, similar to the"self-replicating" peptide from the Ghadiri group [7, 17],or the self replicating hexanucleotide [10], or possibly an RNA polymerase that acts on itself [12].



Another view is the first self-replicators were groups of catalysts, either protein enzymes or RNA ribozymes, that regenerated themselves as a catalytic cycle [3, 5, 15, 26, 28]. An example is the SunY three subunit self-replicator [24]. These catalytic cycles could be limited in a small pond or lagoon, or be acatalytic complex adsorbed to either clay or lipid material on clay. Given that there are many catalytic sequences in a group of random peptides or polynucleotides (see below) it's not unlikely that a small catalytic complex could be formed.

These two models are not mutually exclusive. The Ghadiripeptide can mutate and form catalytic cycles [9].

No matter whether the first self-replicators were single molecules, or complexes of small molecules, this model is nothing like Hoyle's "tornado in a junkyard making a 747".Just to hammer this home, here is a simple comparison of the theory criticized by creationists, and the actual theory of abiogenesis.



Note that the real theory has a number of small steps,and in fact I've left out some steps (especially between the hypercycle-protobiont stage) for simplicity. Each step is associated with a small increase in organization and complexity, and the chemicals slowly climb towards organism-hood, rather than making one big leap [4, 10, 15, 28].

Where the creationist idea that modern organisms form spontaneously comes from is not certain. The first modern abiogenesis formulation, the Oparin/Haldane hypothesis from the 20's, starts with simple proteins/proteinoids developing slowly into cells. Even the ideas circulating in the 1850's were not "spontaneous" theories. The nearest I can come to is Lamarck's original ideas from 1803![8]

Given that the creationists are criticizing a theory over 150 years out of date, and held by no modern evolutionary biologist, why go further? Because there are some fundamental problems in statistics and biochemistry that turn up in the semistaken "refutations".

The myth of the "life sequence"

Another claim often heard is that there is a "life sequence" of 400 proteins, and that the amino acid sequences of these proteins cannot be changed, for organisms to be alive.

This, however, is nonsense. The 400 protein claim seems to come from the protein coding genome of Mycobacteriumgenetalium, which has the smallest genome currently known of any modern organism [20].However, inspection of the genome suggests that this couldbe reduced further to a minimal gene set of 256 proteins[20]. Note again that this is amodern organism. The first protobiont/progenote would have been smaller still [4], and preceded by even simpler chemical systems [3, 10, 11, 15].

As to the claim that the sequences of proteins cannot be changed, again this is nonsense. There are in most proteins regions where almost any amino acid can be substituted, and other regions where conservative substitutions (where charged amino acids can be swapped with other charged amino acids, neutral for other neutral amino acids and hydrophobic amino acids for other hydrophobic amino acids)can be made. Some functionally equivalent molecules can have between 30 - 50% of their amino acids different. In fact it is possible to substitute structurally non-identical bacterial proteins for yeast proteins, and worm proteins for human proteins, and the organisms live quite happily.

The "life sequence" is a myth.

Cointossing for beginners and macromolecular assembly

So let's play the creationist game and look at forming apeptide by random addition of amino acids. This certainly is not the way peptides formed on the early Earth, but it will be instructive.

I will use as an example the "self-replicating" peptide from the Ghadiri group mentioned above [7]. I could use other examples, such as the hexanucleotide self-replicator [10], the SunY self-replicator [24] or the RNA polymerase described by the Eckland group [12], but for historical continuity with creationist claims a small peptide is ideal. This peptideis 32 amino acids long with a sequence of RMKQLEEKVYELLSKVACLEYEVARLKKVGE and is an enzyme, a peptideligase that makes a copy of itself from two 16 amino acid long subunits. It is also of a size and composition that is ideally suited to be formed by abiotic peptide synthesis.The fact that it is a self replicator is an added irony.

The probability of generating this in successive random trials is (1/20)32 or 1 chance in 4.29 x1040. This is much, much more probable than the1 in 2.04 x 10390 of the standard creationist"generating carboxypeptidase by chance" scenario, but still seems absurdly low.

However, there is another side to these probability estimates, and it hinges on the fact that most of us don't have a feeling for statistics. When someone tells us that some event has a one in a million chance of occuring, many of us expect that one million trials must be under gone before the said event turns up, but this is wrong.

Here is a experiment you can do yourself: take a coin,flip it four times, write down the results, and then do it again. How many times would you think you had to repeat this procedure (trial) before you get 4 heads in a row?

Now the probability of 4 heads in a row is is(1/2)4 or 1 chance in 16: do we have to do 16trials to get 4 heads (HHHH)? No, in successive experiments I got 11, 10, 6, 16, 1, 5, and 3 trials before HHHH turnedup. The figure 1 in 16 (or 1 in a million or 1 in1040) gives the likelihood of an event in a given trial, but doesn't say where it will occur ina series. You can flip HHHH on your very first trial(I did). Even at 1 chance in 4.29 x 1040, a self-replicator could have turned up surprisingly early.But there is more.

1 chance in 4.29 x 1040 is still orgulously,gobsmackingly unlikely; it's hard to cope with this number.Even with the argument above (you could get it on your very first trial) most people would say "surely it would still take more time than the Earth existed to make this replicator by random methods". Not really; in the above examples we were examining sequential trials, as if there was only one protein/DNA/proto-replicator being assembled per trial. In fact there would be billions of simultaneous trials as the billions of building block molecules interacted in the oceans, or on the thousands of kilometers of shorelines that could provide catalytic surfaces or templates [2,15].

Let's go back to our example with the coins. Say it takes a minute to toss the coins 4 times; to generate HHHH would take on average 8 minutes. Now get 16 friends, each with a coin, to all flip the coin simultaneously 4 times;the average time to generate HHHH is now 1 minute. Now try to flip 6 heads in a row; this has a probability of(1/2)6 or 1 in 64. This would take half an hour on average, but go out and recruit 64 people, and you can flip it in a minute. If you want to flip a sequence with a chance of 1 in a billion, just recruit the population of China to flip coins for you, you will have that sequence in no time flat.

So, if on our prebiotic earth we have a billion peptides growing simultaneously, that reduces the time taken to generate our replicator significantly.

Okay, you are looking at that number again, 1 chance in4.29 x 1040, that's a big number, and although a billion starting molecules is a lot of molecules, could we ever get enough molecules to randomly assemble our first replicator in under half a billion years?Yes, one kilogram of the amino acid arginine has2.85 x 1024 molecules in it (that's well over a billion billion); a tonne of arginine has 2.85 x1027 molecules. If you took a semi-trailer load of each amino acid and dumped it into a medium size lake,you would have enough molecules to generate our particular replicator in a few tens of years, given that you can make55 amino acid long proteins in 1 to 2 weeks [14,16].

So how does this shape up with the prebiotic Earth? Onthe early Earth it is likely that the ocean had a volume of1 x 1024 litres. Given an amino acid concentration of 1 x 10-6 M (a moderately dilute soup, see Chyba and Sagan 1992 [23]),then there are roughly 1 x 1050 potential starting chains, so that a fair number of efficent peptideligases (about 1 x 1031) could be produced in aunder a year, let alone a million years. Thesynthesis of primitive self-replicators could happenrelatively rapidly, even given a probability of 1 chance in4.29 x 1040 (and remember, our replicator could be synthesized on the very first trial).

Assume that it takes a week to generate a sequence [14,16]. Then the Ghadiriligase could be generated in one week, and any cytochrome C sequence could be generated in a bit over a million years(along with about half of all possible 101 peptide sequences, a large proportion of which will be functional proteins of some sort).

Although I have used the Ghadiri ligase as an example,as I mentioned above the same calculations can be performed for the Sun Y self replicator, or the Ekland RNA polymerase.I leave this as an exercise for the reader, but the general conclusion (you can make scads of the things in a short time) is the same for these oligo nucleotides.

Search spaces, or how many needles in the haystack?

So I've shown that generating a given small enzyme is not as given small enzyme is not as mind-bogglingly difficult as creationists(and Fred Hoyle) suggest. Another misunderstanding is that most people feel that the number of enzymes/ribozymes, letalone the ribozymal RNA polymerases or any form ofself-replicator, represent a very unlikely configuration and that the chance of a single enzyme/ribozyme forming,let alone a number of them, from random addition of amino acids/nucleotides is very small.

However, an analysis by Ekland suggests that in the sequence space of 220 nucleotide long RNA sequences, a staggering 2.5 x 10112 sequences are efficent ligases [12]. Not bad for a compound previously thought to be only structural. Going back to our primitive ocean of 1 x 1024 litres and assuming a nucleotide concentration of 1 x 10-749 potential nucleotide chains, so that a fair number of efficent RNA ligases (about 1 x 1034)could be produced in a year, let alone a million years. The potential number of RNA polymerases is high also; about 1 in every 1020 sequences is an RNA polymerase [12]. Similar considerations apply for ribosomal acyl transferases (about 1 in every1015 sequences), and ribozymal nucleotide synthesis [1, 6, 13].

Similarly, of the 1 x 10130 possible 100 unit proteins, 3.8 x 1061 represent cytochrome Calone! [29] There's lots of functional enyzmes in the peptide/nucleotide search space, so it would seem likely that a functioning ensemble of enzymes could be brewed up in an early Earth's prebiotic soup.

So, even with more realistic (if somewhat mind beggaring) figures, random assemblage of amino acids into"life-supporting" systems (whether you go for protein enzyme based hypercycles [10], RNA world systems [18], or RNA ribozyme-proteinenzyme coevolution [11, 25]) would seem to be entirely feasible,even with pessimistic figures for the original monomer concentrations [23] and synthesis times.

Conclusions

The very premise of creationists' probability calculations is incorrect in the first place as it aims at the wrong theory. Furthermore, this argument is often buttressed with statistical and biological fallacies.

At the moment, since we have no idea how probable life is, it's virtually impossible to assign any meaningful probabilities to any of the steps to life except the first two (monomers to polymers p=1.0, formation of catalytic polymers p=1.0). For the replicating polymers to hypercycle transition, the probability may well be 1.0 if Kauffman is right about catalytic closure and his phase transition models, but this requires real chemistry and more detailed modeling to confirm. For the hypercycle->protobiont transition, the probability here is dependent on theoretical concepts still being developed,and is unknown.

However, in the end life's feasibility depends on chemistry and biochemistry that we are still studying, not coin flipping.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

Judgement Day-Intelligent Design On Trial









Judgement Day-Intelligent Design On Trial

Airs on PBS November 13th at 8 PM. Looks like they'll have the show online after it's on TV if anyone misses it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Kelly on Dinesh "distort da newsa" D'Souza

The question of the nature of reality is one that likely will never go away. There will always be those who support the belief that this mysterious “something” exists, and there will be those on the opposing side. We must work with the tools available to us, and those just happen to be limited to our five innate senses and the knowledge that we have gained through science and reason.

In Dinesh D’Souza’s recent piece for Christian Science Monitor, “What Atheists Kan’t Refute”, he asks why we should believe that “reality” is all there is, but the question should be, “Why should we believe otherwise?” Empirical evidence is the basis and foundation for all human advancements. All technological, scientific, and medical discoveries have been made using these faculties. Nobody would dare to base a monumental decision on anything other than evidence in their daily lives, yet they are expected to do so with regards to this one matter—one that, according to D’Souza’s religion, would be the most important decision anybody could ever make.

One of the most frequently held misconceptions that continues to be used in defense of Christianity is that atheism is a new concept. They argue that the lax moral ethos of society has created a brand-new generation of god-bashers. While it may seem that atheism is having a resurgence of sorts, it is in no way a new phenomenon. Ironically, he not only uses this argument, but then gives demonstrable proof of its falsity.

Convincing the general public that atheism is a new wave of immorality spawned by a materialistic culture is a powerful piece of propaganda. The use of Enlightenment era Kantian argumentation as the backbone of his piece shows that the battle between believers and rationalists has been raging for centuries at least and makes his previous statement seem strangely out of place. (Obviously, he wouldn’t want to mention that this has been happening since the inception of Christianity.)

His self-contradictory statements here are but the beginning of a disturbingly convoluted argument. He states, “The Fallacy of the Enlightenment is the glib assumption that there is only one limit to what human beings can know: reality itself.” What definition of “reality” is he using here? How exactly does one go about attaining knowledge of something that isn’t real? The debate between the “Rationalists” and the “Idealists” was much more complex than D’Souza’s practically dishonest representation of it.

He presents conclusions from Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” as if they were definitive. Any amateur student of philosophy surely understands that one person’s ideas, even if that one person is Immanuel Kant, are not necessarily axiomatic. Kant argued in support of his belief that the five senses were insufficient tools with which to ascertain truth in regards to metaphysical claims. While this is a philosophically valid concept, it is not scientifically valid.

Kant’s philosophical ideology separates the world into the phenomenal and the noumenal. The noumenal world is essentially an agnostic one, but D’Souza would lead the reader to believe otherwise. He can’t even contemplate the notion that just as we atheists cannot perceive the noumenal realm, neither can he. We don’t have knowledge of every possibility in the universe; nevertheless, all major religions claim to have the corner on special knowledge of this supposedly unknowable world. It gets even more oxymoronic when D’Souza claims that one cannot equate experience and reality, but belongs to a religion that is based on having a “personal relationship” with Jesus. He even goes as far as admitting that it will be easier for religious people to understand this because they know that “[t]he spiritual reality constitutes the only permanent reality there is.” I wonder how he knows this since he cannot trust his senses to accurately reflect the nature of reality and has no access to this “spiritual reality”.

D’Souza’s entire piece is a collection of conundrums designed to confuse the reader and shift the burden of proof onto the non-believers. Kant says there is no reason to not believe in that which you cannot know; D’Souza wants you to believe that lack of knowledge provides sufficient reason to believe. He accuses atheists of “foolishly [presuming]” that reason is the proper method for ascertaining knowledge, and then claims to have knowledge of a “reality” about which it is impossible to know anything. I have two words for this kind of absurdity: utter drivel. “Reality isn’t all that there is, but the spiritual reality is the real reality.” “Experience and sensory input isn’t valid as a method to acquire knowledge of reality, but Jesus is real because I feel him in my heart and you can’t prove he’s not there.” The title should have been “What I Can’t Prove but You Should Believe.”

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Mike Gravel has my vote!! -

Presidential candidate Mike Gravel calls the teaching of creationism ignorance. Its not too late to support him.