Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sports and Religion

A common sight is it not? The player pointing to the sky (god lives there you know). The player who crosses himself before an at bat. The group prayer meeting before the game or after a touchdown. What is this?


An over abundance of pride or self importance. You see, the BEST way to draw attention to yourself is to praise god in front of thousands of people. This is a guaranteed way to get them to like you and to, perhaps, overlook your lack of skill.

See what I mean?

To think that the CREATOR OF THE FREAKING UNIVERSE is on YOUR side in a contest about a stupid leather ball is to insult religion which to me is almost un-insultable. So there you go!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jesus Christ vs. Lou Gehrig

As all baseball fans know, in 1925 the first baseman for the New York Yankees, Wally Pipp, complained of a headache and was replaced in the lineup by a young slugger named Lou Gehrig. Wally Pipp never played first for the Yankees again as Lou then played in 2130 consecutive games. It's a great story and a lesson for all who might let a minor headache keep them from work! Yes a great story indeed.

Except it's not true!

The streak actually started the day before when Gehrig had an at bat against the Senators. Also, three total players were benched that day as the manager was trying to shake things up for what was a pretty rotten year for the Yankees. At the time Pipp was hitting about .160 while everyone knew that Gehrig, while young, could hit the ball a mile. As to the headache, there is no mention of it in the writing at that time. The myth only grew later and who knows from where. Myths are like that. We like to embroider stories around our heroes. There's also the problem of the telling and re-telling of a story and everyone knows how this can twist a story in unpredictable ways. The story of Wally Pipp is only 85 years old. Imagine what kind of embroidery has been done on the life of (light hitting but good glove) Jesus H. Christ over the course of 200o years. You'd think that any story coming from so long ago with such grandiose claims would automatically be taken with a huge grain of salt or two. Instead, the stories are taken as beautiful things. Wonderful things. Miraculous things. An organized religion with all the trappings and ceremony has to declare the stories sacred and therefore untouchable. It has to be a sin to question the stories. The stories then move from mere stories to sacred fact. Unfortunately . . .

They're not true!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pascal's Wager

I see that the link I put on the sidebar is now defunct and I'll fix that. Later. For now I'll just offer this short version of Pascal's Wager and my take on it. Blaise Pascal (1600's) said that since you can't prove the existence of God you might as well believe in him. If your wrong and God truly doesn't exist you lose nothing but if he does exist you win all with eternal life.

There are many logical refutations on this line of reasoning so I won't go through the whole thing. Personally though I have a couple of ideas.

To accept Pascal's wager to me would seem to be a cowardly way of life. There is something very scary out there that we can't show you but it's really scary so you really should behave in this special way to cover yourself. I think I need a little more than that to truly commit to a particular philosophy. Is it so wrong to ask for a few particulars? You know, people ask way more incisive questions when it comes to buying a car than they do about buying into an entire world view.

My other thought is, ok, I accept the wager. There. I believe in God. Am I covered? Can I go on now with my life as it was before? Do I have to say it out loud? Can I just say it to myself? How many times do I have to say it? Do I have to mean it? How could anyone tell if I mean it or not? If I say but I don't really mean it have I sinned? What if I can say but I just can't make myself mean it? Am I then doomed? That seems mean.

Of course when people say they believe in God they usually mean that they believe AND they partake in the rituals, the giving, and the community of their church. So, is all of that required too or can one just believe?

If there were an all seeing, fire and brimstone type of God I don't think he would be impressed with Pascal's CYA version of belief so you'd be going to hell anyway. Since you're going to go to hell anyway, you might as well NOT believe. So, there's Pascal's Wager stood on its head!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Air Crash Survivor

(CNN) -- Some will see it as divine intervention, others a simple quirk of fate, fortune or physics, but one boy's cheating of death in an air crash in Libya this week adds another name to a small roll call of aviation disaster sole survivors.

I just love this. 60 some people die horribly but one lucky guy lives and they call this divine intervention. What about the dead guys? I've been down this road before but what the hell?

If it was divine intervention. . . how does it work? Why this kid? If it was divine intervention why did he have to have multiple breaks in his legs? Why not just have him walk away. I know. . .the lord do work in mysterious ways.

I'm so sick of all of this.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Still reading, Why Evolution is True and I'll have a final summary post about the book. For now just this one brief thought.

One of the hallmarks of a robust and working theory is that allows for predictions that can be checked. Over and over again in the book the author asks what would you expect to see IF there was such a thing as evolution. Observations and experiments ensue that support evolution. Asking that same question with Intelligent Design doesn't even lead you to a possible answer. What would you predict if God had made everything? What experiment could you predict the results of and then check? ID is (as the judges ruled in Pennsylvania) a thinly veiled attempt to get religion into the public school. That is ALL it is. No serious working scientist works in the pretend field of Intelligent Design because THERE IS NOTHING TO DO! ID is nothing more than a fundamentalist's statement of faith. . . blind faith if you will in the old testament.

I'm obviously not a man of faith but I could imagine that if you were one how you would have to be willing to adjust that faith in the light of new knowledge. You'd somehow have to back off from the old testament and somehow think that what they really meant in Genesis was about the big bang or about evolution.

Well then. . .


Either your faith is wrongly placed or God decided to write in really obscure metaphor. Why would he do that? To enjoy the thousands of years of confusion that have ensued? Or you have to imagine that all the scientists working in all the countries of the world are part of a vast conspiracy to rid the planet of God. Yeah maybe that's it. That sounds workable.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Why Evolution is True - part 5

There are two kinds of islands - Oceanic and Continental. Oceanic islands have always been islands. Hawaii is an example. It sticks up in the middle of the ocean and is volcanic in nature. Continental islands used to be connected to land but broke off during plate tectonics.

Now, lets look at the critters that live on oceanic islands. Better yet let's look at the critters that are NOT on oceanic islands. No fresh water fish, no mammals, no amphibians and no reptiles. On the other hand you do have such species on the continental islands.

What you do find on oceanic islands are species of birds and insects that are similar to their counterparts on the nearest continental land.

An idea from intelligent design is that creatures were designed exactly for their environment. So, you might think that somehow the oceanic islands are not appropriate for the critters that are not 'designed' for there. One might predict that when introduced into those environments the outsiders would perish. But the opposite is true. Goats and rats introduced to Hawaii thrived due to no natural predators. So. . .

Isn't it more reasonable that birds and insects were able to make the journey to an oceanic island and then proceed to evolve and broaden into a variety of species? Mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are too large to make the journey to a far off oceanic island. Birds can make it with favorable winds and carry insects with them. Seeds can float or be carried by the wind as well.

Why would a creator put animals on oceanic islands (but not all) and then have them look like counterparts on the continents unless he wanted us to think that evolution was happening?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Why Evolution is True Part 4

I'm about half way through the book now and one recurring theme that I'm liking is that the author (Jerry Coyne) will ask, "What would we expect things to look like if life evolved from earlier forms?" When you ask this you often find that the answer is exactly as things are now! Some examples...

We'd expect to find that earlier, extinct forms of life to occur before later forms in the fossil record and we do.

We'd expect to see 'imperfections' in design or outright bad design as evolution has to deal with the current model as minor changes are made. Things that are not needed and other bad designs would continue to show up. This is exactly what we see with numerous examples.

We might not expect this one but how else to explain the fact that many embryos display the forms of their very early forms. Humans embryos go through a 'fish stage' with gills and all. And interestingly all mammals go through a fish stage but no fish go through a mammal stage. Why? Because we descended from fish, the first vertebrae, and not the other way around.

You can also ask what would you expect to see if everything were created at once and is as is and has not evolved.

You would expect to see wild varieties of creatures with few if any common features. But you don't.

You'd not expect to find extinct creatures that are clearly earlier forms of the current version Why would you? But you do.

You'd not expect to see examples of 'bad design' of which there are many but you do. (As Robin Williams put it - "Intelligent design? You've got a sewage treatment plant right next to an amusement park!")

The stages that the human fetus goes through is especially interesting. Two examples: At about 6 months along the fetus grows a complete coat of hair called lanugo giving evidence of our close kinship to the rest of the monkeys. This hair is shed about a month before birth. Chimpanzees grow hair at nearly the same stage but they keep it. Also, a brand new infant will strongly grasp your finger if you gently stroke its palm. This is a remnant of our past as infant monkeys have to be able to hang on to their mother's fur. Humans (with very few exceptions) have no need to grasp their mother's fur but the hard wired behavior remains.

Finally, for today, a recurring ID argument for all this 'bad design' stuff is that the creator created things that way for maybe artistic reasons or for reasons that we cannot fathom. But the only thing that makes any sense of these bad designs is if things evolved from earlier forms. This means that the creator must have had in mind to fool legions of biologists just for fun. Not to mention the fact that the "the lord works in mysterious ways" argument is getting a little tired I think.