Saturday, February 24, 2007

Religion In Confusion!

There is a great number of dysfunctional and cognitively challenged people in this world who claim that they were created by a supernatural entity which they refer to as ‘god’. Their claims are entirely unsupportable by logic, evidence, or science. These delusional people also fail to acknowledge that, rationally, the claims they make for their particular ‘creator god’ can be maintained only if they have first disproved the competing claims of those who ‘believe’ in other ‘creator gods’. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, these ignorant fools are blithely unaware that no-one has ever been able to disprove the competing claims made for those other so-called ‘gods’. In polite circles, this group of people is known as the laity.

There is a smaller number of manipulative and exploitative charlatans who purport to be ‘mouthpieces’ or spokespersons for whichever version of ‘god’ the credulous buffoons which comprise the laity claim to ‘believe’ in. In polite circles, this smaller group of people is known as clerics. Clerics are fundamentally different to the laity. For a start, most of them are well aware that the claims they make on behalf of these anthropomorphic inventions that both they and the laity pretend to pay lip-service to are entirely unsupportable by logic, evidence, or science. Clerics are also aware that the claims made by adherents of other ‘creator gods’ are intrinsically fatal to their own claims unless these can be substantively disproved. However, since the laity to whom they preach are too ignorant to appreciate the import of that fact, clerics have found it unnecessary to attempt to do so.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, clerics in the main ‘Abrahamic religions’ have been known to point out that there really is no conflicting claims between them, since ‘Yahweh’, ‘Allah’, and ‘God’ are one and the same. Were this true, then it is incumbent of the followers of this ‘one and the same god’ to offer a credible explanation as to why each of these religions have their own substantially different versions of this so-called ‘god’s’ ‘inerrant word’ and, furthermore, why they have spent so much of their time killing each other in the name of this ‘one and the same god’? Their failure to provide such an explanation amply demonstrates to all but the thoroughly dishonest that these religions are manifestly not motivated by ‘one and the same god’, and that anyone who claims otherwise is simply being duplicitous in the extreme.

Another example demonstrating that this ‘one god’ argument is entirely specious is the fact that large numbers of those who claim to believe in this fictitious entity also claim that they did not evolve from other life forms, but were created directly by their so-called ‘god’, whilst others who claim to be equally devout accept the scientific evidence supporting evolution. Now on the face of it, these competing claims are irreconcilable, however, the issue is neatly side-stepped by ‘religious evolutionists’ then going on to claim that whilst humans did evolve, evolution was just simply their ‘god’s’ way of ‘creating’ humans, and that evolution is not actually evidence that we evolved, per se, from other species. In other words, theists are in accord; it really was their particular ‘god’ who created us, despite the scientific evidence that the protagonists of evolution present us with.

Current evolutionary estimates by experts suggest that chimpanzees and humans split from a common ancestor 5 million to 7 million years ago. However, this has recently been questioned by a new study, which maintains that this happened just 4 million years ago, and that it took only 400,000 years for humans to become a separate species from the common chimp-human ancestor. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that the early ancestors of humans and the ancestors of chimpanzees may have interbred for a long time before they separated.

The study is entitled Genomic Relationships and Speciation Times of Human, Chimpanzee, and Gorilla Inferred from a Coalescent Hidden Markov Model’, and the author’s summary states:

Primate evolution is a central topic in biology and much information can be obtained from DNA sequence data. A key parameter is the time “when we became human,” i.e., the time in the past when descendents of the human–chimp ancestor split into human and chimpanzee. Other important parameters are the time in the past when descendents of the human–chimp–gorilla ancestor split into descendents of the human–chimp ancestor and the gorilla ancestor, and population sizes of the human–chimp and human–chimp–gorilla ancestors. To estimate speciation times and ancestral population sizes we have developed a new methodology that explicitly utilizes the spatial information in contiguous genome alignments. Furthermore, we have applied this methodology to four long autosomal human–chimp–gorilla–orangutan alignments and estimated a very recent speciation time of human and chimp (around 4 million years) and ancestral population sizes much larger than the present-day human effective population size. We also analyzed X-chromosome sequence data and found that the X chromosome has experienced a different history from that of autosomes, possibly because of selection.(sic)
The study is likely to be viewed as controversial, not least by so-called religious ‘believers’. For a start, it flies in the face of the claims made by the completely irrational religious fundamentalists that the world is only some 3-6,000 years old. Second, since all so-called ‘believers’ claim that it was their particular ‘god’ who gave humans their ‘souls’, it is incumbent on them to explain how their particular ‘god’ interceded sometime during our split from our common chimp-human ancestor to ‘insert’ ‘souls’ into we humans, and at what stage ‘he’ did so. Third, if the evidence suggesting that the early ancestors of humans and the ancestors of chimpanzees may have interbred for a long time before they separated is true, then believers will have to explain how their particular ‘god’ viewed that congress and why ‘he ‘ permitted it.

In conclusion, this new study poses more problems for those who maintain that it was their particular so-called ‘god’ who created humans than it does for the rest of us, but it is unlikely that they will address any of the issues which it presents them with. As I said at the beginning of this article, the majority of so-called ‘believers’ are incapable of doing so, and the minority who are manipulating them have no need to do so, as their followers are completely inoculated against evidence and truth.

For those who are interested, the paper appears in a peer-reviewed journal published under the auspices of the Public Library of Science and it can be downloaded in full from the link given above.

4 comments:

Alan Mackenzie said...

I find it incredible that many eminent physicists, notably John Polkinghorne, regard the Cosmological "proof" as valid. The argument goes, that the cosmological constants are so "finely-tuned" for us, that a "fine-tuner" must have set them in order to guarantee that life would emerge.

However, the Cosmological "proof" actually fails on theological grounds, along with being an abuse of probability. The God of theology is "unconditioned", that is, God does not require a cause, and so is exempt from probability. God simply exists. The Cosmological "proof" fails because it imposes conditions on unconditioned beings.

One cannot calculate the odds of our universe emerging in the way it did, and then assert that God is likely to exist because the universe supports life. This is where the abuse of probability happens. God is neither probable nor improbable: he simply exists, and has always existed. Our universe may or may not be improbable, but the probability of our universe existing has no effect on something which theologians allege to be unconditioned. On these grounds, the Cosmological "proof" does not even pass the the tests by theologians own standards, yet those same pseudologicans believe that such arguments count as "evidence" for God.

In short, the Cosmological "proof" takes probability out of the context to which it has any meaning, because their conception of God is not conditioned by anything. The "fine-tuned" universe does not raise the probability of God existing, because, when theologians talk of their uncaused God, that same God, if it existed, is exempt from probabilistic arguments.

I hope this is clear. If it isn't ask me to clarify it.

Alan.

The Merchant of Menace said...

I would hazard a guess that the actual probability of our universe existing is incalculable. However, whilst the probability of our existence is so exceedingly small as to be almost negligible, the fact remains that this is no more proof that the entity which theists call 'god' exists than any other spurious claim. In short, it neither stands up rationally, logically, nor scientifically.

As for Polkinghorne and his ilk, whilst they are intellectually capable of knowing that their claims are totally specious and irrational, they are forced to make them because they cannot think of any other justification to support their desperate psychological need to believe in this entity which they call 'god'. In other words, when they argue in defence of the existence of 'god', they know that they are arguing irrationally out of their deep-seated psychological needs and not arguing rationally, as they do in their everyday intellectual and professional pursuits.

This is what Georges Rey calls his 'meta-atheism', by which he means that at some level these people all know that they are deceiving themselves and lying to others.

As for those who don't realise that about themselves, well they are de facto delusional.

Bob B said...

Just a silly - but hopefully relevant - thought:

If the improbability of our planet's composition and ability to support life are proof that God must have created it - and therefore a miraculous event - then consider this:

Millions of people have shuffled decks of cards for centuries. And yet, if you take a normal deck of 52 cards and shuffle them, there is an excellent chance that you will order them in a manner that has never been done before.

Thus, though you may not know it, you have created a miracle!

Or ... you will have done something that may seem extraordinary in the
micro sense, but is perfectly logical given a macro view.

The number of possibilities is 52 factorial - or 52 * 51 * 50 * 49 * etc down to ... 3 * 2 *1.

That is a huge number, much larger than the billions of decks that have been shuffled throughout history.

And, quite probably, the likelihood of getting any particular order is much less likely than life appearing on one or more of the billions of planets in the universe.

So ... you too can play God and create a miracle. Just shuffle a deck of cards a few times, and chances are you'll create a combination that has never before been seen!

Take care, Bob B

Alan Mackenzie said...

Bob,

You are making a very good point. One could deal out a pack of cards, receive a particular hand, and keep an exact record of the order of those cards. Then, one could do a backwards calculation of the odds of getting that particular hand of cards. At this point, we could declare that the chances of getting that particular hand is so improbable, that we could play cards for the rest of our lives, and never receive the same hand: this is really improbable, we declare. This is exactly right, but nonetheless, we dealt them out, and we got that hand. "Common sense" lets us down in a world where counter-intuitive natural processes and laws out-trump our instincts.

We are pattern-seeking animals, and often humans fall prey to the recognition of patterns which are not really there. The probability of receiving a Royal Flush, or winning the lottery is the same as receiving any hand of cards, or getting any combination of lottery numbers. Humans place a cognitive bias on particular hands of cards, because those patterns make sense to us: it must be a miracle, we say. However once we understand that probability is not chaotic, but highly ordered, we realise that each universe, with a particular set of cosmological values, or each hand of cards, with a set of random values, is in fact as improbable as any other. There is no need for a "guiding hand" to contrive a particular set of values: the probability of each outcome is the same as any other.

We are credulous animals, who erroneously believe that an unseen agent must have given us an "advantage" over other players, or that the agent "chose" a more "suitable" outcome for our benefit. The tendency of humans to correlate the outcome of events with unseen agents is perhaps hard-wired into our genes: I believe that there may have been a selection pressure among early human individuals, which made it advantageous to associate unusual, threatening, or wondrous events with the actions of unseen agents. Superstitious people may have enjoyed a survival advantage over those who had fewer tendencies to run in the opposite direction at the sight of danger: they got eaten less often than those who hung around.

Our ancestors would have treated alarming natural phenomena, such as solar eclipses and thunderstorms, as if they posed a threat similar to that of natural predators, such as Lions, or Sabre-tooth Tigers. The response of a human to a carnivorous predator is probably similar to a thunderstorm: I would not be surprised if the same region of our brain which controls our reaction to danger, or unusual, unexpected, or "miraculous" events may be responsible for associating agency to inanimate natural phenomena. I would be fascinated, Bob, if you or anyone else could provide evidence for how wild religions, evolved into clerical religions. After all, modern people find themselves so devoted to these unseen agents, that they are willing to be sued in a court of law for placing Intelligent Design in school science classes.

I would thus, like to discover the nature of this transition, from wild religion, to what manifests itself today as "theology".

Alan.