No Sympathy Cookies From Me

“As far as I'm concerned, these whiny little ass-wipes, who have very little, if at all NOTHING to do with this street name, should just keep their mouth shut about such an incident. They don't like the name, they should go buy some land, build a street, call it Darwin Lane, then go crawl back under the rock, from which they came.”

“Oh please, this country was founded and fought for because of religous persecution. Lets get back to being true Americans and if the other foreign people don't like it, please do leave this country and do all of us a big favor. I find nothing wrong with heaven, hell, saint or sinner but I do find fault with some of the idiots that complain about everything. Get a life people !!!”

“Christianity is the great civilizing force in history. Murderous oppression is what Christianity has successfully opposed.”

“The thing that shock
s me, is that the only people who are complaining about this sign, isn't other religious's the athiests. I can understand if it was Muslims arguing about the sign, when Christians denied them to build a mosque at Ground Zero. I could understand if it was the family, friends and coworkers of those seven, who requested not to make the street sign that name, due to the seven's upbringing in faith. I could even understand if it was a group of Satanists, conflicing with the sign. But it's none of those. It's the athiests who have their panties in a bunch. And that's what confuses me.”

“They say they are offended? How? How have we offended them? Usually, when one is offended, it's based off the antithesis to what is being done. Battles within different faiths is one thing. But athiests don't believe in anything. So how are they offended? Let's say I lived in a nation where the majority worshiped the Tooth Fairy. Or the Flying Speghetti Monster. Or the Cult of Subgenious. If I was encompased by promotions of their faith, I might laugh at their belief
s and find it a bit comical (as most athiests do with Christianity), but that's the extent of it. I know the Tooth Fairy is a myth, at least from my faith. But I wouldn't start a riot, forcing them to take down their street sign, which also promote it. It's a wasted effort. And, quite honestly, a waste of my time to do so. Yet here we have atheists, who spent hours, days of their lives, put loads of money and blood and sweat and tears into trying to debunk something they think doesn't exist. I don;t know, I just find that kind of funny. I mean, if you believe that nothing happens when you die and that there's nothing to life...then why are you so pissy about mythical street signs? It would be like me getting all fed up about a street sign which said 'Thor is my Lord'.”

These are some of the responses that I received in a debate regarding the “Seven in Heaven Way” street sign that honors the firefighters that died in the 9-11 terrorist attack. This is primarily a response to today's post from FriendlyAtheist, which has taken the stance that opposition to the sign is a ridiculous endeavor.

Yes, I have an issue with that street sign. I, personally, find it to be a rather mild and passive sign, but that is still no excuse to simply let it go and ignore it. It’s like seeing a child sneak a cookie when they know they’re not allowed to have any. That child should be made to put the cookie back and be explained to why they are not allowed to take them in the first place. Most of the arguments against the Atheists of New York are portraying them as the bad parent who won’t allow their Christians to have just one measly, heavenly cookie.

An argument that was brought up is that we should just change the name of all the religiously-named cities and roads (San Francisco, Los Angeles…). This just isn’t the case. I have no issue with homages to historical figures and concepts. The issue here is that this sign is an endorsement and an insinuation of the existence, and therefore affirmation of a Christian belief.

For instance, I have no issue with “Jesus Street,” but I do have a problem with “Jesus Will Save You Street.” Our parks can be full of Jesus Lakes, Allah Rivers, Valhalla Valleys, and so on. Once those statements turn to “Jesus Forgives Lake,” “Allah is the Way River,” or “Valhalla is for Heroes Valley,” that is when I have an issue.

Another argument is that atheists have no right to be offended. The only people who have that right are the families of the deceased and Christians. The families were apparently happy to oblige and chose that name and if we don’t like it, well, tough shit. On the other hand, how dare they make claims that those men went to heaven? Not just anyone can go there; it’s not by works alone, you know. How can they make such as strong assertion when they might not have been Christian? That sort of afterlife judgment belongs to God, not a street sign.

As much as we don’t want to be the baby-eating, happiness-killing atheists, the feelings of the family, Christians, and public opinion are not the point. The point is that this is a public road posting religious claims. The city created those signs with a specific Christian statement, and the law doesn't allow the government to be a pedestal to promote a religious view. By asserting the claim that those men went to heaven, that is a lawful acknowledgement that heaven exists and that heroes go there when they die.

Why are atheists offended? Because atheists do believe in something. We believe in science, reason, and secularism. We don't want religion and government to mingle because we don't want our children going through school indoctrinated with beliefs that should only be taught by their own family. We don't want to fear biased judgment from our government if we were to have different beliefs than the religious statements posted on the walls of our courtrooms. I can only speculate the riots that would happen if a courtroom were to post plaques with quotes from the Quran. We already know of the protests and death threats that occur if someone tries to build a privately funded mosque in New York City.

So no, we should not let Christians get away with that cookie for the sake of sympathy. This issue is not about atheists being offended at the message, it is that this message is endorsed by our government. It would have been perfectly fine if they had gotten a private business owner to host a plaque with that message, but a publicly funded street sign is capable of showing honor and respect without dosing it up with mythology.

Of Transitional Fossils & Transitional Bibles

We obtain all of our knowledge from what is presented to us. It is not a choice of what one wishes to believe, but ignorance that pushes someone into a sympathetic worldview. Evolutionism and creationism are far too often the subject of debate, and seem so particularly trivial to even debate scientific fact from menial hopes that hold onto threads of denial. A dangerous amount of people still cling to unreliable doctrines that have been rewritten and reworded for thousands of years and ignore the facts and evidence that contradict these juvenile beliefs due to a conflict of interest.

Abiogenesis is the study of life’s origins arising from inanimate matter, where chemical reactions took place that synthesized organic compounds from inorganic predecessors. This has been tested with the formation of the amino acids necessary for life under primitive earth conditions in the Miller-Urey experiment (a re-analysis of the experiment revealed that 22, rather than five amino acids were created in one of the testing apparatuses). Once life has formed on earth, evolution follows. Evolution is the change from one generation to the next through mutations or transfer of the genes, hypothesizing that all species are descended from a common ancestor. Although these changes can be miniscule, the accumulation over a long period of time reveal palpable differences that branch off from one another to potentially result in the emergence of new species. These differences diminish or maintain themselves through natural selection. Natural selection is where these genetic mutations exhibit their functionality by hindering or abetting to a species survival. If the gene is beneficial, the species will more than likely flourish and the population will eventually be dominated by the gene through successive generations (the primary factor of speciation). Evolution can be seen in transitory fossils, which will be discussed below.

Perhaps my favorite visualization for evolution is the “Hairpin Thought Experiment” presented by Richard Dawkins in his book, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” He tells us to think of a female rabbit and imagine her mother next to her, and then her grandmother, and so on until you have a lineage of rabbits extending back through the multitude of years. As we follow this path of ancestral ascendants, we begin to notice minute changes between the rabbits we are passing compared the modern rabbits we are familiar with (this change is not immediately noticeable and can be compared to watching the hour hand on a clock move). As we scope a mother to her daughter to a century’s antecedent to a millennia’s divergence, the disparities become much more apparent. Eventually down the line, when rabbits are not so rabbity and much more shrew-like, we make a “hairpin turn” and begin to follow another line of progeny from the ancestral pre-rabbit mammal. Eventually, while following a certain path of daughterly descent, we will find our way to the modern leopard.

Creationism, in the opposing spectrum, is a religious belief that everything was created by a supernatural being or beings. Creation myths can vary greatly between the different cultures, histories, and religions. Belief in creationism can be a religious motivation to reject science and complexity by denouncing naturalism and crediting a deity. Since everything just “became” in the beginning, the creation story eliminates the desire for a scientific explanation such as abiogenesis and evolution and even aims to discredit science with vehement religious denial. Creationists claim that radiometric dating generates false results and that there are just far too many gaps in the fossil record to say evolution occurred. It is also argued that evolution is unfalsifiable.

Focusing on Christian creationism, the origins of man and the universe are ascribed to the God as written in the book of Genesis in the Bible, saying that God created the heavens, the earth, all plants and animals, and man within six days. This story has been adhered to and interpreted in two primary ways: Young Earth Creationism and Gap Creationism. The young earth belief takes the Genesis creation the most literal, in that God created all in six, 24-hour days, taking account of the scriptural timeline that determines the age of the earth to be approximately 6,000 years old. Gap creationism is an old earth creationist notion that postulates that the six ‘days’ could have been thousands or millions of years each; in this aspect, it attempts to maintain itself closer to scientific views by accepting the scientific age of the earth while still refuting evolution in that everything was still created at the beginning of these ‘days.’

It seems particularly hypocritical that evolution/abiogenesis deniers reject this science, yet appear to nonchalantly embrace all other sciences that are beneficial to them, such as modern medicine, physics, digital technology, and so forth. Science is never wrong in our world of realism but the scientists and interpreters are subject to error. It is upon a foundation of facts and further science that truer knowledge can be built upon, and errors and misconceptions eventually eliminated. Evolution is accepted by the scientific community as fact, and for the last 150 years that “The Origin of Species” has been out, flaws and gaps have been found, but they have been remedied or are in the process of being remedied. We should not reject an entire theory just because we are missing a few details; it is like throwing out an intricate puzzle just because a few pieces are missing, even though the image assembled is clear.

Evolution and abiogenesis are falsifiable while creationism is not. With the latter, opposing facts can be tossed away and replaced with the phrase, “God did it.” This leaves little explanation, which is why this pseudoscientific area is dubbed “faith.” Faith is not fact, but merely stern belief and hope in something potentially imaginary. The claims that evolution is unfalsifiable say that any fact can be fitted into the framework, making it impossible to demonstrate falseness. In reality, evolution makes predictions that can be falsified if contradicted by evidence, such as a fossil record showing no change over time, or even observations of organisms being created supernaturally. Darwin himself made the claim: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane was asked what hypothetical evidence could disprove evolution. His response? Precambrian rabbits.

Creationists have another habit of attempting to “prove” their religious dogmas and allegories with science, while denying the conflicting science. The best example is with flood geology, where Kent Hovind says Noah & Co. (including dinosaurs) eluded a -300° F ice meteor that broke up near Earth; the fragments of the meteor became either rings, impact craters, or formed the earth’s poles. This cracked the earth’s crust and caused the flood (all fossils are a result of the flood). Earth’s “vapor canopy” collapsed, tectonic plates shifted, and rapid erosion formed all modern geology. The oceans absorbed CO₂ from earth’s atmosphere, allowing greater amounts of radiation to reach the earth’s surface, causing human lifespans to be shortened in comparison to the 950 year old Noah. Whose ass did this science get pulled out of? How could Noah have survived the freezing temperatures or toxicity of the air caused by the altitude and atmospheric pressure from mountain top-surpassing water levels? How did aquatic life survive the fresh water dilution or plants survive at all? How did earth’s population get to be 6.4 billion after just 4,000 years (when the population should have been at 7 million)? Why are there records of all extinct animals written in human history (or did they just die out immediately after the ark landed)? There are just so many contradictions that all rely on God’s omnipotence to pull humanity through.

Those who deny transitional fossils lack the recognition of the ones that actually exist. There are synapsids and sauropsids, which branch birds and mammals away from lizards, respectively (Pedopenna was a feathered dinosaur and Archaeopteryx was a dinosaur-like bird, while Thrinaxodon was a reptile with whiskers and fur). Moving on to humans coming from apes:

Nakalipithecus -> Ardipithecus -> Austrolopithecus -> Kenyanthropus -> Paranthropus à Homo

Each of these contains several species transitioning each other. The genus Homo contains 13 transitional species. Creationists will argue futilely that they did not “come from monkeys”; others might accept the notion of micro-evolution (change below the speciation level), but not macro.

Another issue creationists argue is that of the human mind, saying that we would be unsympathetic barbarians of science and natural selection so as to not have the capacity to care for those with abnormal genes. What they fail to acknowledge is that by caring for the genetically misfortunate, we are gaining scientific knowledge from the study of such individuals. If we just let them die, we would gain nothing from them. By caring for the ill, not only are we exerting species-preservation, we are become more scientifically and medically advanced. This is how our human lifespan has doubled since the middle ages. The other thing to note is that people with such diseases are typically unfit to reproduce themselves, although carriers of the genes may still exist in the lineage (a much more passive form of natural selection). Morality is not a product of God, but a product of evolution; species would not survive if they had no morals; there would be no community.

We have a will to pride ourselves as being special, and initially, it may seem we aren’t so if we focus purely on the doctrines of scientism. But we are, and it is magnificent; to be a human with a will and a consciousness in a world so evolved is extraordinary and rare. We are unique naturally and do not need the notion of God to have made us great. Creationism fills the gaps of complexity many of us don’t wish to comprehend with the simple and supernatural, giving us false optimism that forces us to submit our lives purely to an imaginary dimension external from the one right before our eyes. Science has these answers and hypotheses of life, the universe, and everything that are explained logically with facts upon evidence. If someone wishes to deny transitional fossils, they are forgetting their own doctrines are transitional. For scripture to be passed along for hundreds to thousands of years with different authors, censorship, translations, and revisions, accuracy cannot be trusted. To ignore this evidence and discredit the realm of science because of errors (a misplaced puzzle piece) is absurd. To try and support scripture with science (while denying other science) is even more absurd. Faith is a dangerous way to look at the world as it leaves no room for human comprehension. Science does not answer the ultimate question of purpose, but spending a lifetime searching for some spiritual purpose or a purpose that occurs after life, is a life that has wasted its potential.

Religion: Killing Science With Science

Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. The people who dropped the atomic bombs murdered over 200,000 people; Einstein’s science did not. In the same way Einstein can be linked to the atomic bomb, evolution, rather than personal hatred, was linked as the cause of the Holocaust by those against evolution. It is these evolution-deniers who are tarnishing and attempting to discredit science. It is also these people that, saying Hitler’s reasons were based in evolutionary science, have overlooked Hitler’s true motivations in his quote: “I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.”

So strongly are some to preserve their metaphysical beliefs that they are willing to defy rationality and falsify science to conform to their own misconceptions. The world is really 6,000 years old to some people and science lies vehemently in opposition. Creationists dispatch such theories such as scientists manufacturing fake dinosaur bones, ignoring carbon-dating by adding a few extra zeros to what was originally only a few thousand years old (creationists claim), or altering other methods and toss out the undesirable results. In actuality, carbon dating done to fossils completely replaced by rock will yield inaccurate results because there is no carbon left to date. The other issue was with argon-potassium dating which lead to immensely diverse results when starting out which were probably triggered by contamination known as the Suess effect.

Kent Hovind’s theory is an example of scientific ignorance that explains young Earth Creationism with pseudoscience. He claims that Noah's family and the animals (including dinosaurs) boarded the ark before a -300° F ice meteor broke up near Earth; meteor fragments became either rings, impact craters, or formed the earth’s poles. The ice of the poles cracked the earth’s crust and released “fountains of the deep,” initiating the flood (fossils are the result of the mass destruction from the flood). The wobbling earth collapsed the vapor canopy, tectonic plates shifted, and rapid erosion formed all modern geology. The oceans absorbed CO₂ from earth’s atmosphere, allowing greater amounts of radiation to reach the earth’s surface, causing human lifespans to be shortened in comparison to the 950 year old Noah. Absolutely none of this is scientifically founded nor explains how Noah survived the freezing temperatures or toxicity of the air caused by the altitude and atmospheric pressure from mountain top-surpassing water levels. How did aquatic life survive the fresh water dilution or plants survive at all? There are just so many contradictions that all rely on God’s omnipotence to pull humanity through; if this really were the case, why try to mutilate science with such theories when it would be infinitely more dignified to just say, “God did it”?

Some religions oppose merely the teaching of evolution, taking advantage of the fact we are still just studying abiogenesis,; they criticize public schools for not filling in that gap by teaching the alternative (typically just the one alternative that makes up the opposition). Alternatives should be taught, but it should be done in a philosophy course, not a science one. Another religion against psychiatry forces its patrons to deny psychiatrical treatment and medicine, instead leaving them to be coerced into psychologically distressing audits and regress to spiritual healing and herbal remedies as prescribed by someone within the cult. There are also those that enthusiastically degrade their own or a loved one’s health, relying on prayer rather than proper medical treatment.

Yet it seems hypocritical that nobody seems to oppose such basic sciences as electricity, anatomy, and astronomy, and the even more complex sciences that lie in computers, physics, and nuclear energy; nevertheless, certain people deny only the personally conflicting sciences. Science does make mistakes. It is from these mistakes that we learn our error and correct and improve upon it. This is not the case for the religious literals that steadfastly cling to ignorance. Perhaps it is because people with little comprehension of the world fall back onto religion to “fill the gaps” with supernatural explanations from what they do not understand. Certain science is discredited while another form fills its spot to conform to the words of faith. If it is faith, why must it be proven? Why corrupt the scientific art for a selfish and indoctrinating reason? A person with religion tends to look at the world through the book and doctrines they are told to, while a scientist looks at the world tabula rasa to be filled in by new observations and logic upon a foundation of other sciences; I certainly do not look at the world through my copy of the “Origin of Species” or find biblical recluse in it.