Monday, July 21, 2014

This Video Is Not Dangerous To My Atheism

The other day I was checking up on my Klout score(something I'm finding to be a fairly useless measure of social media influence), and I seen this blog post listed in the create tab: "Warning: This Video May Be Dangerous To Your Atheism".

Oh, joy. A blog post from the original writer of "God's Not Dead", Rice Broocks. Let's see if we can analyse this blog post, paragraph by paragraph:

"The discovery that the universe had a beginning is a relatively recent realization in the scientific community. The implication of this discovery is that in one moment, all of space and time came into being. In fact, one such scientist named the event the "Big Bang" as a derogatory term, since he feared that the idea was allowing "the divine foot in the door""[emphasis Broocks'].

The last sentence is the first mislead in the blog post. Georges LemaƮtre, the scientist who first proposed the Big Bang model, described it as the "the Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation". Fred Hoyle, who was the one who coined the theory "the Big Bang", criticized it mainly because it competed with his favorite, but now obsolete, "Steady State" theory. While Hoyle did fear the "divine foot in the door", his fear was unnecessary. The Big Bang theory does not imply an intelligent or supernatural cause, despite Broocks obviously trying to paint it as such. It may allow for a possibility of such a cause, but then such a cause must first be proven before plugging it as anything beyond a hypothesis.

"Further, the notion of a beginning for everything was resisted by certain scientists due to the fact that it pointed people toward a Creator. The fundamental laws of physics appear to have been carefully designed to allow for a life-permitting universe. This evidence of “fine-tuning” further points to a personal, super-intellect creating the universe with life in mind."

Again, this fear was totally unnecessary. And in this paragraph is an appeal to the long debunked "fine-tuning" argument for the existence of God. Unfortunately for Broocks, as the previous link shows, "fine-tuning" can actually be a great argument for the non-existence of God. Consider that we live in a universe that is estimated to be only 2% baryonic matter, and just on Earth biomass is only .00000000117% of Earth's total mass. This seems more like a universe fine-tuned for black holes and dark matter than for life. Moving on:

"The naturalist (one who believes nature is all that exists) asserts that the universe came into being from nothing, by nothing, for nothing. The theist believes the universe came from nothing, by Someone, for something. Naturalists attempt to explain away this evidence by appealing to the existence of multiple universes (the multiverse). However, such claims are based mainly on wild speculation and blind faith, so they are not as reasonable as an eternal, uncreated, personal Creator."
And here is where Broocks engages in projection and metaphysical cherry-picking. Broocks projects that naturalists believe the universe was created ex nihilo(from nothing) without an effective cause. However, all of humanity's experience shows that things that exist within the universe are created ex materia(from materials) with some sort of effective cause. Yet Broocks clearly states that theists believe the universe came into being ex nihilo by a supernatural sentient creator being, based on the same blind faith and wild speculation he accuses naturalists of having. Broocks can't demonstrate or point to an act of creation ex nihilo within the universe, and we certainly haven't found a way to observe anything outside the universe, so ex nihilo itself is nothing more than a hypothesis at best.

But scientists aren't dogmatically naturalists. Scientists are bottom-up evidentialists and empiricists. Until evidence can reasonably show otherwise, Broocks' argument can't advance any further than a hypothesis. And let's be clear, Broocks does not have any evidence to support his claim, just his religious beliefs. He's working top-down by starting with his conclusion and cherry-picking what he can use and ignore what breaks his conclusion. If it were discovered that Big Bang was caused, say for the sake of argument, by an act of virtual particles, would he call those particles "God"? I highly doubt it. He'd probably just move the goalposts and claim "God" made the virtual particles that caused the Big Bang.

The last paragraph of Broocks' piece doesn't really matter, so I'll just say this about the video in the article which was supposed to be "dangerous" to my atheism: The Kalam cosmological argument is not an argument for God at all. It can only claim at best that the universe had a cause. Religious apologists merely jump to "God" from Kalam without any reasoning or evidence to bridge that gap. The most honest answer that can be given at this moment is simply: "We don't know what caused the Big Bang yet, but it seems it will be something that is very crazy to our minds". For a more in-depth refutation of the Kalam argument, I leave you to watch philosophy buff, soap actor and YouTube atheist Scott Clifton do so with ease:



Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Persecuted": The False Persecution Con of Christianity

In the Christian propaganda film "God's Not Dead", all of the Christian characters are portrayed as "persecuted for their faith" while "godless atheists" run the house until one reluctant protagonist is thrust into the spotlight and triumphs over all in the end. This plot device, while having no basis in reality, has become a popular theme in many Christian propaganda films lately.

Later this month, a new Christian propaganda film will be coming out, and it couldn't have a more blatantly fitting title: "Persecuted". The basic plot is this: an evangelistic politician(played by James Remar) is framed for murder after he opposes a sweeping religious reform bill. He must fight to clear his name and take down the bill because it would supposedly persecute the rights of Christians if it passes.

On the movie's Facebook page, all of the posts are meant to elicit vacuous "Amen" comments, promote the movie and it's blog, highlight genuine persecution abroad, or make the audience feel that their rights to be Christians in America are being or about to be taken away.

This movie is not meant to simply pander to Christians, but propagate and reinforce a popular notion that everyone who is a Christian will soon be actively persecuted and they must fight against the "godless politicians" to "bring God back into the government".

However, anybody with a sharp, observant mind will see the fake persecution complex for what it is. The movie itself contradicts it: Here we have a multi-million dollar Christian film, starring popular Hollywood actors, being distributed and shown in theatres throughout the nation, with a guaranteed audience filled with church groups and other believing Christians. If Christian persecution in America existed, this film would not have made it as far as it has. It seems, however, that the opposite is true, as the following video shows:



So why is this false persecution complex propagated? Ironically, it's not used to describe when actual persecution is taking place. It's used when a privilege that's been historically granted solely to Christianity is granted to another faith or by nonbelievers in order to preserve the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in America. "We are being persecuted!" is the cry when a Hindu priest delivers an invocation in the U.S. Senate, or when an atheist bench or Satanic statue is placed alongside a Ten Commandments statue on public property. Basically, to American Christians who take the false persecution complex to heart, persecution is seen as being forced to play on a level playing field with everyone else, and they do not want to give up their privilege.

So they recast their loss of privilege as a form of rights persecution, even going as far as inventing a new yet nonsensical term in an attempt to validate their faux outrage and try to regain their lost privileges.

Yet "Persecuted" doesn't seem to go that route in propagating the persecution complex. From the trailers and plot summary, it seems that the "persecution" takes the form of a government conspiracy to take away religious rights of Christians. Apparently, in this alternate universe, the Republican Party and the Religious Right don't exist and nearly everybody except the protagonist is anti-Christian or completely agnostic. In reality, Christians are the vast majority in the U.S., including Congress. So just as in "God's Not Dead", this movie sacrifices even superficial reality at the altar of propaganda.

So if you're planning to watch "Persecuted" and expect to see a movie that doesn't misrepresent reality, you'll be wasting your time and money. Better to spend it on a movie that makes no bones about it being purely fiction, like "Transformers: Age of Extinction" or "Rise of the Planet of the Apes". At least those movies aren't out to convince you there's warring factions of giant robots or intelligent apes armed with rifles at your doorstep.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Cannabis Oil Con: When New Age Woo Attacks, Part 2

The other day on Facebook, a relative of mine posted a link from the psuedoscientific New Age woo page "The Mind Unleashed". In the link was a
NOT a cancer cure.
picture(see left) of 7 tubes of cannabis oil, with the caption "-CANCER CURE- A 60 gram supply of Cannabis Oil is recommended for those suffering from serious dis-ease such as cancer. Each tube is 10 grams. Pictured here is enough to treat one cancer patient. And only $600-$1,200 TOTAL. The health care industry would charge you that much for your first night in the hospital. Cure your cancer or lose your home and pay for chemotherapy".

After pointing out to her that cannabis oil does not cure cancer, she then claims but doesn't link that a study was done in the 1970s that shown that cannabis oil cures cancer, but it was "suppressed" by the government and pharmaceutical industry so they can make money. That's classic conspiracy theory talk. One article I found earlier that mentions cannabinoids used in cancer treatment links to a study showing the slowing effects of two synthetic cannabinoids on lab-grown prostate cancer cell lines and on mice. Now, that is a far cry from a "cure". Human trials aren't even in the picture. Not to mention that there's anywhere between 100 to 200 different types of cancer in humans, with different pathophysiologies, genetics, prognoses, causes and treatments(credit: Skeptical Raptor). In short, cancer isn't some monolithic disease with a single cure-all for it.

Yet, here we have a website that features articles such as "15 Tips For Empaths" and "Can We Reprogram Our DNA and Heal Ourselves With Frequency, Vibration & Energy?" boldly claiming that cannabis oil is a cheap, real cure for all cancer without real evidence to back it up, and you should choose it over proven treatments(chemotherapy). That's recklessly dangerous and can cost lives. But then, this isn't the first time New Age proponents have made dangerous medical claims and I doubt it will be the last.