Archive for April, 2009

In a new article over at Christianity Today, Dinesh D’Souza (Christian apologist) gives a very unsatisfying answer to “Why we need earthquakes”. I mean: does this guy think he’s being a good apologist for Christianity? Sometimes it seems like his answers are so weak that it makes his religion look ridiculous.

D’Souza writes:

A fresh way of looking at the problem of natural evil and suffering comes from Rare Earth, a 2003 book by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee that traces the myriad conditions required for life to exist on any planet. In a sense, the authors—an eminent paleontologist and an astronomer at the University of Washington in Seattle—are discussing the “anthropic principle,” which specifies the degree to which our planet appears fine-tuned for complex life. The concept is often used in Christian apologetics to show that our intelligently designed universe seems to point to an intelligent designer.

Ward and Brownlee ask: Why do natural disasters such as earthquakes, seaquakes, and tsunamis occur? All three are the consequence of plate tectonics, the giant plates that move under the surface of the earth and the ocean floor. Apparently our planet is unique in having plate tectonics. Ward and Brownlee show that without this geological feature, there would be no large mountain ranges or continents.

While natural disasters occasionally wreak havoc, our planet needs plate tectonics to produce the biodiversity that enables complex life to flourish on earth. Without plate tectonics, earth’s land would be submerged to a depth of several thousand feet. Fish might survive in such an environment, but not humans.

Ward and Brownlee’s answer to this is as simple as it is devastating. Such a world could have produced life, but it surely could not have produced creatures like us. Science tells us that our world has all the necessary conditions for species like Homo sapiens to survive and endure… it seems that plate tectonics are, as Ward and Brownlee put it, a “central requirement for life” as we know it.

I think that’s a perfectly good explanation if God existed 4 billion years ago and was completely prevented from interacting with the world at any time since then. What a ridiculously weak explanation. If D’Souza’s God existed, then: (1) God could’ve brought about any form of life that he wanted at any time in history, (2) God could’ve created continents and mountains without the need for plate tectonics, (3) God could’ve “shut off” plate tectonics and earthquakes once human beings were on earth. In essence, D’Souza’s explanation presumes a God who is severely limited; unable to interact with the planet during the past 4 billion years. This is just another “God is all-powerful; except that He’s not all-powerful when that’s inconvenient” explanation.

[Nod to DubunkingChristianity]

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "The Daily Show: Baracknophobia", posted with vodpod

On a related note:

NEW YORK – The Fox network is sticking with its regular schedule over President Barack Obama this week.

The network is turning down the president’s request to show his prime-time news conference on Wednesday. The news conference marks Obama’s 100th day in office. Instead of the president, Fox viewers will see an episode of the Tim Roth drama “Lie to Me.”

It’s the first time a broadcast network has refused Obama’s request. This will be the third prime-time news conference in Obama’s presidency. ABC, CBS and NBC are airing it.
(Source: Yahoo News)

And a recent video with Michele Bachmann:

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Swine Flu

The Swine Flu stuff seems rather scary. According to reports, it’s killed quite a few people between the ages of 25 and 45 – which is pretty unusual for the flu, though it’s the pattern we saw in the 1918 flu epidemic. And the ratio of known flu-cases (2,000+ in Mexico) to mortality (149 dead in Mexico) would put it at somewhere around 7% mortality rate. Of course, that would assume that we have a decent count of actual cases – and I have doubts about that. If the actual number of cases is 10x higher in Mexico than we think it is, the mortality rate would only be 0.7%. Although, strangely, not a single death in the US yet, which suggests a much lower mortality rate. For comparison, the 1918 flu, which killed 20 million people (more than the number of people who died in World War 1) only had a mortality rate of 2.5% and a very high infection rate (affecting 800 million to 1 billion people), which is also unusually high for the flu. It’s doubtful this new strain is like the 1918 flu epidemic in those details.

Personally, I don’t think it’s going to be all that bad in the developed world. I expect to see more deaths in the third world, though (sigh, seems like they always end up on the bad side of things).

Anyway, it’s definitely brought out the crazy in people. Sometimes it seems like people are on-edge, just waiting for the world to end. Take a look:

“Clues that the virus may be a synthetic creation are already manifesting

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that deadly flu viruses have been concocted in labs and then dispatched with the intention of creating a pandemic.”

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Faith Fighter

According to Game Politics, Molleindustria has done a tongue-in-cheek take down their “Faith Fighter” game in response to Muslim pressure:

Although it was released more than a year ago, Faith Fighter was not on the mainstream media’s radar until yesterday’s Metro UK reported that religious leaders of various stripes were outraged by the game, which features Mortal Kombat-like matches between deities of several popular religions.

As the controversy grew, the Associated Press reported today that the influential, Saudi-based Organization of the Islamic Conference had called for the removal of Faith Fighter from the Internet. Accoring to the AP, the OIC called the game “incendiary in its content” and “offensive to Muslims and Christians.”

The UK’s Metro says:

Religious groups are calling for a ban on an online game where holy figures such as Jesus and the prophet Muhammad fight to the death.

Critics say the free Faith Fighter game is ‘deeply provocative’ and ‘disrespectful’ towards all world religions.

Muslims are particularly outraged because Islamic tradition prohibits drawings of Allah. [maybe they meant to write “Mohammed”]

You can play the game here. Be sure to pay attention to the background during the game. (Hey, is that the FSM floating past?) I liked Jesus’ special “Holy Ghost” attacks.

You can play their “Faith Fighter 2” game as well (it’s more of a commentary on the whole crazy situation).

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After watching this video over at Friendly Atheist, full of fake Christian persecution…

… I almost have to wonder if this is the way the Christian Right would go about killing school arts programs:

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I saw this quote on the internet today: “Atheism is a religion; belief there is nothing. Agnosticism is honest; we know far less than we claim.”

I have to admit – it raised a whole bunch of troubling questions. For example, if atheism is a religion because it is a belief in the non-existence of something, then how many religions am I practicing right now? I’m practicing the religions of “a-unicornism”, “a-leprachanism”, and “a-fairyism”. And, was I practicing the religion “a-unicornism” before I heard about “unicorns”, or only afterward? And, if I was practicing “a-unicornism” before I knew about unicorns, then I must be practicing an infinite number of religions simultaneously – all the stuff I have yet to hear about. Is there any way out of this religiosity? If I disbelieve or believe in anything, I’m believing in a religion. Can I be agnostic about everything? Agnostic about the sun rising tomorrow morning, agnostic about chemistry and physics, agnostic about my very existence? I guess that’s the only sensible thing to do – because, otherwise, I’d be practicing a religion.

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Tax Protests

There were some fairly large protests down at the Denver capital building today. They were protesting taxes and Obama’s “socialism”. I even saw one sign that read “Say goodbye to White America”. I wasn’t quite clear if he was protesting Mexican immigration, or if he was saying White Americans were going to leave the country. The crowd was almost entirely white, middle-aged, middle-class people. There were maybe 800-1000 people, although a lot of people were leaving, so the crowd was larger before I saw it. It was like Rush Limbaugh was saying, “give me everything I want, or I will flex my muscles and whip my followers into a dangerous frenzy”. Maybe this is all part of the right-wing media’s plan to make Obama fail.

Some people claimed the protest was not partisan, but it’s pretty obvious it was. (For example, check out these signs – one putting the USSR, Obama, and Nazi Germany together, and another asking “Obama is this the change?”.)

Apparently, even the governor of Texas said today that Texas could secede if they wanted to (but quickly added that he doesn’t know why they would want to):

An animated Perry told the crowd at Austin City Hall — one of three tea parties he was attending across the state — that officials in Washington have abandoned the country’s founding principles of limited government. He said the federal government is strangling Americans with taxation, spending and debt.

Perry repeated his running theme that Texas’ economy is in relatively good shape compared with other states and with the “federal budget mess.” Many in the crowd held signs deriding President Barack Obama and the $786 billion federal economic stimulus package.

Perry called his supporters patriots. Later, answering news reporters’ questions, Perry suggested Texans might at some point get so fed up they would want to secede from the union, though he said he sees no reason why Texas should do that.

It’s scary the way the “pro-American” right-wing media threatens to destroy the country unless they get what they want. I had also read recently that Obama’s approval ratings show the largest political-party gap of any president in modern history.

For all of his hopes about bipartisanship, Barack Obama has the most polarized early job approval ratings of any president in the past four decades. The 61-point partisan gap in opinions about Obama’s job performance is the result of a combination of high Democratic ratings for the president — 88% job approval among Democrats — and relatively low approval ratings among Republicans (27%).

Here’s one video of the protest from a CNN reporter:

I actually think the reporter handled the whole thing badly – arguing and getting snippy with a protester. I’m betting that the guy who says we’re moving away from Lincoln’s principles is blissfully unaware of the fact that the first time the US government collected income taxes was in 1861 – under Lincoln.

The other stupidity of his whole argument is that US taxes (under Obama) are still quite low by twentieth century standards. (The image below shows the tax-rates on the richest section of the population.) Not, that any of them would know this listening to right-wing pundits.

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