Ask an Atheist Day 2014.

17 04 2014

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Thanks for joining me on another Ask an Atheist day. I’ll admit that I’m saving this one pretty much til last minute. But I’m sure you don’t mind.

This year I have only received two questions. I plan to tackle them both in the following order.

1- Is it necessary to label yourself that you don’t believe in any kind of religion? Or would it be easier just saying no that’s not for me?

2- How will you deal with your son with religion/god/spirituality etc when the time comes? Will you allow him to explore other concepts that differ from yours?

As usual. Any further questions, please post below, or contact me with whichever method you have available. If you know me, you have facebook, twitter or email etc. If you don’t know me, you’re pretty much limited to commenting below.

So here we go for 2014. I’ll first start off with a side note. Completely unrelated. I recently celebrated my 1 billionth second anniversary on April 13th. It was a weird yet satisfying moment. I really used it to help appreciate the number itself. The number really is a mind boggling thing to comprehend, and yet in the scheme of the universe it’s such a small thing. 1 billion seconds is close to 32 years on earth, yet in the scale of the universe that’s just a tiny fraction of a blip. Anyways, now to the heart of the matter.

Is it necessary to label yourself that you don’t believe in any kind of religion? Or would it be easier just saying no that’s not for me?

This is actually a great question. I’m really surprised I haven’t had this one yet. There are two sides to this viewpoint that may or may not answer the question right off the bat. So I’ll list the two sides and then continue.

Side A from Sam Harris: “I think this whole conversation about the conflict between faith and reason, and religion and science, has been, and will continue to be, successfully marginalized under the banner of atheism,” he said. “So, let me make my somewhat seditious proposal explicit: We should not call ourselves ‘atheists.’ We should not call ourselves ‘secularists.’ We should not call ourselves ‘humanists,’ or ‘secular humanists,’ or ‘naturalists,’ or ‘skeptics,’ or ‘anti-theists,’ or ‘rationalists,’ or ‘freethinkers,’ or ‘brights.’ We should not call ourselves anything. We should go under the radar — for the rest of our lives. And while there, we should be decent, responsible people who destroy bad ideas wherever we find them.”

Side B from Richard Dawkins: “The moment you talk about a supernatural creator, designer, or anything; you are advancing a scientific hypothesis that is either right or wrong.”

Where do I stand? I’d say I’m kind of in the middle. I know that’s an easy way out of answering, but to be fair I’d say I lean more to the Dawkins fence post than the Harris post. I love Sam Harris for his clear statements and explanations. He never fails to make his points absolutely sharp and clear with solid logic and reason. But Dawkins just seems to hit the nail on the head for me. It’s like comparing Carl Sagan to Neil Degrasse Tyson. They both are hosts of the Cosmo’s show, both science communicators extraordinaire, but they are in the same position as Harris and Dawkins on this matter. Neil is not bothered by religion so much as Carl. Neil just points out bad ideas and backs up his reasoning. Carl will do that but also explain why the religion is a bad idea in the first place.

So where is your answer!?!? Ok, here goes. Dawkins points out the fact that in making a claim you have to be either right or wrong. There is no in between in science. We either accept it as truth as best as we can know until further evidence proves otherwise, or it’s wrong. Harris makes a great point that choosing the label only makes us anti something and carries a negative connotation which may not necessarily help us in the end. I think this is where the question is really looking to go anyway. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you are wondering why bother with the negative assertion when I could just ignore it and go about my day peacefully. After all I’m not publicly announcing my anti wrestling status, or anti pineapple status and defending it or promoting it daily. So why the difference here?

As both Sagan and Dawkins have asserted time and time again, Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If I was to tell you that the sun is actually made from marble cheese, it wouldn’t affect the daily lives of most poeple. But if you were to try to figure out why that marble cheese heats the earth as it does and causes global warming effects to continue to worsen, there would be a problem. Promoting a false truth as fact is where I base my decision to be on that verge of activist atheist, or militant atheist. I may not be that forceful in my delivery, but I do like to share the fact that if you promote a false claim, there is a good chance I am going to challenge you on it to show you how wrong it is to do that, and if you can best me at that and show me how wrong I am I will concede and accept this new evidence. This is not just religion that I’m up against, it’s any supernatural or pseudoscientific claims out there that I come across. (Astrology, homeopathy, voodoo, ghosts, bigfoots, end of the world, conspiracies, etc) So you could call me a skeptic, or atheist in the same breath.

With religion in particular there is the issue of the personally structured belief system that so many people seem to flock to. While I understand the benefits of a religious belief such as being good, or trying to do things to the benefit of your fellow man etc. But the problem lies in the beliefs being based on someone who wrote a book 2 thousand years ago with the knowledge they had at that time. If we are ever to progress as a species we need to stop sticking with these old beliefs especially when we are picking and choosing which parts to believe and not believe. If we used a book from even 500 years ago to figure out how the world worked, we wouldn’t have any of the technology we have today, from vaccines, to airplanes and cars, to electric appliances etc. So why make the exception for understanding the rest of the universe based on a book about a poof there it is genie that made everything we see in the world?

For example I’ll pick on Christianity because we’re in north america and that’s the popular following of choice here. Some believe in the god of the bible and that jesus died for sins and they follow that part well. But when it comes to the ark, and Adam and Eve they look the other way and call it a story to teach us something. I have a major problem with this. How can someone pick a religion that is based on a story, and then pick and choose the parts they like and ignore the rest and then use that belief system that they personally configured to guide how they view the world. That’s like me picking and choosing which sciences to accept and saying well I don’t like chemistry or math so physics you’re out too. I like biology though so I’ll live my life to the max as long as biology says my decisions are ok. By that logic, I would be ok to jump off a building because physics isn’t any way to guide my understanding of the world, biology doesn’t tell me that jumping off a building will accelerate me towards the ground at a speed enough to splatter my insides across a 3 meter area. Science as a whole is either accepted or not accepted. You either accept the process or you don’t, there is no half way point. So don’t do it with religions claims either. The whole is true or the whole is not true. Harry Potter is real, or he isn’t real. Godzilla destroyed Tokyo or it never happened. I’m sure you see where I’m going with that.

So where am I going with the rest of this? I am dragging on I know. So people make their own religion based on their own person ideas and borrow pieces here and there, and then base their ideas on how the sciences have determined the world to be based on these old assumptions. Times have changed and so has the understanding for the worlds operations. We don’t need the ideas of gods to explain the sun moon and stars anymore. We understand the expansion of the universe and how planets and stars are formed now. We understand evolution and natural selection, DNA, and genes now. We don’t need to think that a supernatural force just made all the animals appear then get on a boat to survive some massive flood of the earth. We know Zeus isn’t throwing lightning at us for being horrible people. And on that note, if you are going to assert your belief that your god is real because their book tells you, then why not the thousands of other gods who assert the same. So many religions saviours have been based upon the same story plot line for thousands of years. Look it up. Jesus isn’t the only one with that story. He’s just one of the most recent.

This is why I am a proud atheist. I stand up to fight against the ignorance that is being spread by these beliefs. I may not be the scientist doing the studies but I can do research. I am not afraid to challenge my beliefs either and look at the evidence for new claims. If something new comes along I will change my views to adapt to the new evidence.

And last but not least, our children and future generations depend on this. You can argue that religions can help people be better people overall. But this is just not always the case. There are too many people who use beliefs in old books to be prejudiced towards cultures, sexuality, or any number of differences they can find a reason to dislike. The bible has been interpreted in so many ways that you really can use it to defend any point you wish if you want to assume it really means anything at all. And this goes for any religious text, not just the one. So if this book can be interpreted in so many vile ways, how can it be good? So to bring this all around in full circle, why bother with this negative assertion when you can just ignore it and go about your life in peace while allowing scientific discoveries to push our species beyond our wildest imaginations.

I hope that answers the question. Next question up.

How will you deal with your son with religion/god/spirituality etc when the time comes? Will you allow him to explore other concepts that differ from yours?

No! My son WILL be an atheist. LOL. No, I do have plans to introduce him to the many cultures and religions of the world. I want to make sure he understands that there are these other ways of life all over the world, and to understand just how diverse the human species can be. There is no reason for me to prevent him from whatever he chooses to believe or accept. I can only hope he decides based on the information he finds, and not because I have told him what to believe.

I want to make sure he asks questions and challenges things the best way he knows how. And if he ends up being a muslim, christian, or hindu, then that’s just what he chooses. Of all the religions or beliefs, buddhist would be probably my top pick for him, other than the obvious atheist, or humanist etc. But as long as he’s not mormon or scientologist I’m happy.

I don’t want to be that parent that chooses the life for my kid. I wanted freedom to express myself and to make decisions for myself when I was growing up and I would expect my son to have those same desires. Making decisions on your own is a very important thing in my opinion. When I see people who have grown up under the complete guidance of their parents decisions, they never seem to be truly happy with themselves, or who they are. They seem fake, and often times seem to have real psychological problems with identity. Or they are just so blind to the world around them because they’ve lived a life of “do this and don’t think about doing anything else unless you’re told to.”

This really is a simple answer compared to the first one but I don’t think there is much more to say about it. I want to make sure my son has a solid education and I that’s the most important thing to me at this point. If he has some way to justify gods and ghouls with science and math, then that’s just how it’s going to be.

Thanks again folks for participating. As always, if you ever have questions about anything, I love to write these blog posts about things. I love to research things that are interesting or start long deep discussions on random topics. So don’t ever hold back. I’ll always give you my 100% honest opinion. And if I don’t want to talk about something, I’ll still say something and then say I didn’t want to talk about it but…. LOL.

Cheers, until next time.

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Ask an Atheist Day! The Answers Edition.

18 04 2012

Welcome back folks. Here is another edition of Ask an Atheist. I started early and have compiled my answers. Let’s get started.

Ask an Atheist.

“If we evolved from apes, then why are there still apes? And why didn’t said apes also evolve?” – From the user Synaptic Cohesion

This question was covered last year, but I’ll add on to it this year since I didn’t get many questions. Well SC, I don’t want to bore you too much but I have to cover a basic understanding of evolution first. Evolution works through a process known as natural selection where an animal will live it’s life generation by generation passing along its genes to its offspring. Natural selection doesn’t happen overnight, or within a single generation, in most cases it can take as many as 100 or 10,000 generations to really make any large variations that are noticeable. The process works because the individual animals that are best suited to live in the current environment live to pass on their genes. So for example, if said animal lives in an area that is mostly covered with a dark brown moss and other plants, and also happens to be dark brown, it will live longer than it’s fellows that may be a shade lighter in color. The offspring from that animal would likely be darker as well, and likely live to pass along those genes, and so on. If there was a point where the lineage became too dark, it would be cut off as well, and the best shade to be would be left to pass along its genes. Basically, the saying survival of the fittest, where fittest just means, best suited to survive in their current environment. You can replace colors, with almost anything like size, speed, fur coverage, tolerance to food types, etc.

The Ensatina salamander that lives in the California coastal mountains is an example of a species that has evolved and left living ancestors behind due to it migrating to new environments that changed the best suited requirements. The thing I should mention here is that the animals are not trying to change, or looking for the changes, it just simply happens slowly because the ones that are best suited tend to be the ones to actually survive to the age of mating and pass along their best suited genes. At one end of the mountain range, the salamanders are more solid in color with a slightly colored blotchy look, and as you proceed along one side of the mountains, they will continue to get more and more blotchy until you get to the other end of the range where they are spotted. Then if you were to travel along the other side of the range, you will find them more and more solid in color with less spots and blotchiness until you get to the end again where you now have 2 different salamander species that came from the same. But all around the range you will still find the ancestors left behind that did not migrate.

Again, you can apply this idea to our ancestor apes who were similar to the great apes we see today. We came from an ape that was very similar to the Chimpanzees or Bonobos of today. The Chimps and Bonobos are actually a split that happened after we split from our common ancestor. Our ancestor ape had similar habits to the Chimps and mostly lived in the trees and wooded areas. Our ancestors however began to migrate out of the trees and woods. This change in habitat allowed natural selection to really take hold of those ancestors features that best suited their new way of life. Features like less fur over the body to allow heat to escape so we wouldn’t over heat, darker skin, upright posture, and stronger muscles to allow long distance traveling. These are a few things that slowly became the best suited.

Meanwhile some ancestors stayed in the trees and never left the woods. So they began to evolve in a different direction and kept their fur, and stuck with their knuckle walking habits. This is known as a split. If you’ve ever seen a family tree, where the branches split, and each lineage goes in their own direction, it’s the same idea, but with bigger eventual differences because of the different ways of life. All it takes for a split to happen in a species is for a barrier to form between the population, such as the mountain range that split the salamanders, or even a lake overflowing and forming a river between a population that cannot cross the river, they over a long period of time will possibly adapt to new ways of life and become two species.

So why are there still apes? Because our ancestors simply made a decision to leave the forrest and didn’t turn back, while other ancestors stayed behind forming a split in our lineage. The apes that were left behind, did in fact evolve, but they did not evolve into a separate race of humans because they didn’t follow our same path in history, they stuck to the forrest way of life.

This is not to say they will never evolve further and become another species, evolution just takes a very long period of time. It’s something that people just don’t understand it seems. People think that a monkey gave birth to a human, but that’s just not how it happened. That would be a truly strange event. That would bypass millions of years of of evolution that needed to come first.

One last example before I move to another topic is something you will be able to look at first hand. I’m sure you either have or know someone who has a dog as a pet. Dogs are all descendants of wolves. Somewhere around 30,000 to 50,000 years ago, humans were settling in groups and the wolves in the area were still their enemies. As the settled groups threw out scraps of food, and left food laying around wolves would do what they do best, and scavenge for free food. If the wolf was found the passive ones would run off, while the aggressive ones would try to attack a group of people who were quite familiar with hunting practices and likely those aggressive wolves would be killed. Over the generations, as the passive wolves bred more and more and kept doing the same, the people would realize that they could harness these passive wolves as almost an ally. They would leave out scraps and know that if other groups of people tried to come attack their settlement, the wolves would likely deter them from the area, or at least cause a bit of a disturbance and alert them to the fact that someone was coming. So from there on, the passive wolves began to become what is likely the origin of the term “mans best friend”. Over more generations and by around 15,000 years ago, the domesticated dog of the time was a common occurrence. Dogs that made noise as intruders approached were likely kept as the better of the group, and the ones that didn’t do much other than eat, were likely let loose, killed off, or didn’t get to breed as it was likely cared for less by it’s owners.

Again, as generations go by, and as people learn more about breeding of animals, people begin to breed dogs for specific purposes, such as herding, hunting, or just plain old companionship. Fast forward to today, and we have thousands of dogs ranging from the giant St. Bernard’s, to the tiny Chihuahua’s, all the while, we still have wild wolves all over the globe in their natural habitat still being wild and aggressive, since it was the more passive ones that had split from their ancestors to become our best friend.

I hope this answers your question. I don’t expect you to become an atheist, if it doesn’t fit your beliefs then it doesn’t fit your beliefs. All I ask is that you understand that all of this information is well documented by biologists, archeologists, paleontologists, and many other specialists in various areas of science. I’m not trying to pull a fast one, I’m not trying to bullshit you, these are simply the facts being relayed to you. I appreciate you taking the time to ask me, and I hope you took the time to read through. Any further questions about anything here, and I’d be glad to answer. Next question…

What do you think about Darwin’s theory on black people? Does his views harm his credibility as a “Scientist?” – From user Synaptic Cohesion.

First problem I have with this question is which claim you are referring to? I’ve read and heard a few different ideas on what people think Darwin thought about black people. But in general they all kind of revolve around the idea that he thought blacks and other races were not from the same origins as the whites. Or that he thought blacks and other races were not equal to whites etc. Basically trying to say Darwin was a racist person, and that somehow him being racist would make any work he had done less credible. I guess I could say one thing before I continue. If his statements were to lead to this result, and his opinion was as listed above, his work would still not be any less credible other than the fact that he was slightly wrong about origins because of his views. For example, if the horrible monster Hitler was the person to figure out the theory of gravity, it wouldn’t make the theory of gravity any less credible. A person’s character has nothing to do with their work. I’m sure there have been many horrible people to discover great things that have changed our world. So with that said, I’ll continue to clear up a bit of the issue at hand.

The whole issue stems from Darwin’s comments about the differences between the negroes and caucasians and the other great apes. Some have taken his words to mean that he is calling negroes apes, or that they are from a different ape and couldn’t possibly be from the same ape. He refers to the blacks as less civil and other races as savages simply because of the lifestyle they lived. The African bushmen, and natives of the Galapagos Islands did live in a less civil way when compared to the caucasians in Europe who lived in large houses with markets and agriculture. In the same way a homeless white man today lives a less civil way than most of us do who have homes or apartments to call our own and often buy our food and clothes at the local market or mall, while the homeless man scavenges for food and clothing that has been discarded. That doesn’t mean they are less of a person, they just live a life that is determined less civil by the standards of the time and local people. An even further example could be if you yourself were to live in the big hollywood hills in a regular apartment or home, the celebrities would view your life as less civil because you buy your own food and clothing and don’t have a hired person to do it for you etc.

He also mentions that future generations will likely wipe out the blacks and other great apes. Some feel this is his way of saying he wants it to happen. This is merely his opinion based on the fact that the people of the time treated them so horribly as if they were a lesser person. Darwin himself was completely and 100% against slavery and the terrible treatment of another human being because of their race. He often got into fights with the captain of the ship he sailed on while traveling the Galapagos Islands because the captain had slaves, and would treat them in a horrible manner. At one point Darwin was actually told not to return to the dinner table because of his outrage toward the treatment he witnessed. In a sad way he was almost right about this speculation. Look at the way we start wars with other nations. Almost no caucasian nation is ever the target of the attacks of other caucasian nations. Often it is the nations of blacks, or other races that end up the targets.

So what do I think about Darwin’s theory on black people? As a person who is from Black and White parents, I have no problem with his views towards black people, especially considering the time he lived in. He was against the violent treatment he saw being used and protected by the people of the time. His words have been misinterpreted and smeared in an attempt to somehow discredit evolutionary theory. But like I said above, even a purely evil person can be right about other things. But fortunately for us, this is not one of those situations.

Hopefully this answered your question. If not, as always you can comment below and I’ll try to address your question better, but be specific with regards to what you are stuck on, or where I may have missed something.





Ask an Atheist Day. (April 18th, 2012)

25 03 2012

What’s up all you Ape readers.

It’s only a few weeks until Ask an Atheist day. I hope you participated in the ‘A’ Week festivities. If anybody has a question for an atheist just post it in the comments and check back on April 18th for your answer. I’m pretty open to whatever you want to ask. Unless it’s extremely complicated to which I’ll just throw an idea your way and hope you are interested enough to do some research to learn more about the topic. But I genuinely would love to get some great questions.

So treat this like a reverse survey where you ask ME the questions and I check my box by writing a response just for you. Don’t be shy. But stay on topic.

Thanks, and hope to see some questions rolling in.

-Ape