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Atheists & Genesis Revisited Hits the Small Screen

by Michael Shermer, May 26 2009

For this week’s blog I’ll post two related video links, the first for an Australian television series called Compass, which interviewed me while I was in Sydney last summer, on “The Atheists.”

I think it is a well done show, fair and balanced, so to speak, but I do find the premise rather interesting in as much as they purport to be studying “us” like we’re some mysterious species recently discovered on a remote island. From the voice over: “What do they believe? And are they all the same?” Picture David Attenborough hanging from a cliff face, “and here, if you look closely, you’ll see amongst the vast forest of believers the rare spotted atheist, whose diet remains a mystery but whose mating habits produce far fewer offspring than believers, and so they nest precariously on face cliffs such as this one so as not to be devoured by their carnivorous neighbors…”

Here’s the show summary:

Compass talks to atheists of different stripes.Eminent philosopher John Gray; science writer and editor of Skeptic magazine Michael Shermer; historian and writer Inga Clendinnen and Australia’s best known atheist Phillip Adams, all explore the philosophical and practical consequences of being an atheist.

How does their atheism shape their attitudes to science and the big questions of our time such as war and global warming? Is conflict between atheists and believers inevitable and necessary? Or, is this debate generating more heat than light?

Genesis Revisited

I happened upon this delightful video based on the Coda entitled “Genesis Revisited,” from my book, Why Darwin Matters, which I explained in the book: “To convey the logical absurdity of trying to squeeze the round peg of science into the square hole of religion, I penned the following scientific revision of the Genesis creation story. It is not intended as a sacrilege of the poetic beauty of Genesis; rather, it is a mere extension of what the creationists have already done to Genesis in their insistence that it be read not as mythic saga but as scientific prose. If Genesis were written in the language of modern science, it would read something like this.”

The voice is in this video is a computer generated voice called “Daniel” from RealSpeak

Genesis Revisited: A Scientific Creation Story
by Michael Shermer

In the beginning — specifically on October 23, 4004 B.C., at noon — out of quantum foam fluctuation God created the Big Bang, followed by cosmological inflation and an expanding universe. And darkness was upon the face of the deep, so He commanded hydrogen atoms (which He created from Quarks) to fuse and become helium atoms and in the process release energy in the form of light. And the light maker he called the sun, and the process He called fusion. And He saw the light was good because now He could see what He was doing, so He created Earth. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let there be lots of fusion light makers in the sky. Some of these fusion makers He grouped into collections He called galaxies, and these appeared to be millions and even billions of light years from Earth, which would mean that they were created before the first creation in 4004 B.C. This was confusing, so God created tired light, and the creation story was preserved. And created He many wondrous splendors such as Red Giants, White Dwarfs, Quasars, Pulsars, Supernova, Worm Holes, and even Black Holes out of which nothing can escape. But since God cannot be constrained by nothing, He created Hawking radiation through which information can escape from Black Holes. This made God even more tired than tired light, and the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the continents drift apart by plate tectonics. He decreed sea floor spreading would create zones of emergence, and He caused subduction zones to build mountains and cause earthquakes. In weak points in the crust God created volcanic islands, where the next day He would place organisms that were similar to but different from their relatives on the continents, so that still later created creatures called humans would mistake them for evolved descendants created by adaptive radiation. And the evening and the morning were the third day. And God saw that the land was barren, so He created animals bearing their own kind, declaring Thou shalt not evolve into new species, and thy equilibrium shall not be punctuated. And God placed into the rocks, fossils that appeared older than 4004 B.C. that were similar to but different from living creatures. And the sequence resembled descent with modification. And the evening and morning were the fourth day.

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life, the fishes. And God created great whales whose skeletal structure and physiology were homologous with the land mammals he would create later that day. God then brought forth abundantly all creatures, great and small, declaring that microevolution was permitted, but not macroevolution. And God said, “Natura non facit saltum” — Nature shall not make leaps. And the evening and morning were the fifth day.

And God created the pongidids and hominids with 98 percent genetic similarity, naming two of them Adam and Eve. In the book in which God explained how He did all this, in one chapter He said he created Adam and Eve together out of the dust at the same time, but in another chapter He said He created Adam first, then later created Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs. This caused confusion in the valley of the shadow of doubt, so God created theologians to sort it out.

And in the ground placed He in abundance teeth, jaws, skulls, and pelvises of transitional fossils from pre-Adamite creatures. One chosen as his special creation He named Lucy, who could walk upright like a human but had a small brain like an ape. And God realized this too was confusing, so he created paleoanthropologists to figure it out.

Just as He was finishing up the loose ends of the creation God realized that Adam’s immediate descendants would not understand inflationary cosmology, global general relativity, quantum mechanics, astrophysics, biochemistry, paleontology, and evolutionary biology, so he created creation myths. But there were so many creation stories throughout the world God realized this too was confusing, so created He anthropologists and mythologists.

By now the valley of the shadow of doubt was overrunneth with skepticism, so God became angry, so angry that God lost His temper and cursed the first humans, telling them to go forth and multiply themselves (but not in those words). But the humans took God literally and now there are six billion of them. And the evening and morning were the sixth day.

By now God was tired, so He proclaimed, “Thank me its Friday,” and He made the weekend.
It was a good idea.

125 Responses to “Atheists & Genesis Revisited Hits the Small Screen”

  1. Dwight says:

    “Go forth and multiply your self!”
    I love it , well done Sir, I will be passing this along to my “true believer” friends.

  2. Venom says:

    Nice video. :)

  3. makarios says:

    That’s pretty good – “Not in those words,” – priceless

  4. Mark Edward says:

    Dead On Michael! Now we need to do the movie version… Perhaps “Adam and Eve’s Excellent Adventure?”

  5. Courtney Franklin says:

    Phillip Adams? Oh god, I’ll have to skip that part.

  6. MadScientist says:

    Who’s the production manager? Can I beat him/her to a bloody pulp for those exceedingly annoying and unnecessary cut effects?

  7. Mastriani says:

    Nope, I’m still not an atheist. It is a bankrupt attempt at ideology, as the fools in Washington state proved this past holiday season.

    Better it is to be kitapsiz, for all time.

    • Jeff says:

      Atheism is not an ideology; strictly speaking it is simply the lack of belief in superstitious nonsense. Atheists do, however, tend to be more liberal and compassionate than believers, not restricting their naturally-evolved empathy to members of their immediate tribe but extending it to all sentient beings, human or otherwise.

      To me, atheism is an expected consequence of having the desire to know how things really are (to the best of our ability to figure that out), instead of how we wish them to be. A scientific approach – following the evidence whereever it leads while making the least possible number of assumptions – is the only way we have to keep from fooling ourselves about discovering the truth (with a small ‘t’) about existence.

      By the way, what on earth is “kitapsiz”?? Its sounds Turkish, not that that helps in the least.

      And sorry, but agnosticism is just another attempt to be an unbeliever without saying so. If you have doubts about deities you are an unbeliever (=athiest) whether you like it or not. Before anyone jumps up and accuses me of being a ‘strong’ atheist – someone who “believes” or is “certain” that there is no god – I reject that definition since I’ve never met anyone who actually describes himself that way (with the possible exception of Penn Jillette, who may be very intelligent and talented but who is also a libertarian global-warming denier).

      • Steve Taylor says:

        Being Agnostic, means to me, that you have no evidence for or against a God or Gods. Who am I to decide whether there is a God or Gods. While being an Atheist, means to me, that you believe that there is enough evidence to disprove that there is a God or Gods.


      • Peter says:

        (with the possible exception of Penn Jillette, who may be very intelligent and talented but who is also a libertarian global-warming denier).

        You’re repeating yourself.

      • Peter says:

        Google says “kitapsiz” is Turkish for “bookless. lacking books who do not accept the bible and the Koran.”

        (And for some reason, skepticblog has failed to post my reply twice…third time lucky, or I give up…)

      • Mastriani says:

        Kitapsiz is Turkish; literally, it means “book; one without”. It is an admonishment of Muslims who don’t carry the Quran. But in Turkish colloquy, it is a slur, to the effect “godless g.d. heathen”; which I find immensely entertaining because of the cognitive dissonance created by that phrase.

        You can say atheism isn’t an ideology, but it is enacted just so. Washington State, the atheist group that made the big display of trying to denounce “religious holidays” by asking for a legal holiday celebrating the “winter solstice” ~ which is paganism, and was for a few thousand years in many different cultures.

        Spending your time railing against religion makes a bigger fool than being religious. Religion and the “God” experience are built in functions, neither will ever leave humanity.

  8. John says:

    Great vids, Shermer; Thanks!

  9. Poradin says:

    “…quantum foam fluctuation…Big Bang…cosmological inflation…expanding universe…Quasars…Worm Holes…Black Holes…” You’re not skeptical about these “human creations”? Are these things absolute truths for you, Michael Shermer? Don’t you realize that your “Scientific Story” is very much on a par with the biblical one? You put all your faith on the truth of today, blissfully ignorant of the wisdom of being aware that the truth of today is never the truth of tomorrow. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame, you fool.

    • CoryG says:

      the difference between his ‘scientific story’ and the biblical one is that science is self correcting – if something is discovered to be wrong it will be changed and updated. The biblical story is set in stone (even if it’s wrong) and can never be corrected. At least you realize that your religion is probably wrong as well (“the truth of today is never the truth of tomorrow”)

      • slippery slope says:

        The biblical story might be set in stone, depending on which version you are talking about, but the perception people choose to have of it seems to be ever changing in light of differing perspectives.

        While I personally cannot say with authority the absolute truth about God, I can say asolutely my BELIEF of the truth in God.

        If you were to ask me why I believe so firmly, I could not produce any “proof” nor would I need to.

        I would instead try to share the reasons for my belief which are based on my own personal perspectives. It would ultimately be your choice whether or not to follow my belief.

        But for someone to ridicule me for what I believe is disrespectful to say the least, and that is even IF they had some verifiable proof of their own theory which counters mine.

        They do not, yet they speak with the same authority as if they had. When challenged on this fact, they delve into namecalling, logical fallacy, and overall childishness. Sad.

        I mean, if I find something to be ridiculous, as they assert, then I wouldn’t spend much time arguing the fact…

        Would you? If I told you something you hold to be utterly ridiculous, would you go out of your way to “prove it wrong” or would you simply ignore it and go about your business? hmmm…

      • slippery slope says:

        Oh, I almost forgot- In regard to your assertion that “science is self correcting” and that “if something is discovered to be wrong it will be changed and updated”… I would say that would need to depend on a few different factors like, which country is this “science” taking place? What are the customs there? How profitable is the mistake and/or correction?

      • kabol says:

        or do you mean like this?

        …you sir, are an inconsiderate, illogical, elementary, redundant, ass hat, in my humble opinion…

      • kabol says:

        …they delve into namecalling, logical fallacy, and overall childishness. Sad.

        do you mean like this:

        Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame, you fool.

        quantum physics IS filled with a lot of theory and works in progress. “works in progress” being an important phrase.

        anyhoo – compare the realities of nuclear fusion with the parting of the red sea and see which one wins.

        fwiw, true scientific method has no country or cultural boundaries, though i would agree that monetary issues can arise and affect scientific studies.

  10. MadScientists says:

    Ugh; I couldn’t bear to watch the whole thing, it was awful. Irrelevant images mashed together, annoying cut effects, vapid blather, audio from interviews remixed like the saddest case of diseased disco. They could have said so much more in under five minutes and without the annoying and irrelevant visual distractions. My verdict: a poorly written and poorly executed amateur production. I wish Michael Shermer were interviewed for something more substantial.

  11. Peterh says:

    a vapid opinion which could have been given in under 6 lines and only one post.

  12. Galileeo says:

    I’m not an Atheist, but a True Skeptic and I find this forum needed and all views relevant. If you dislike what Sheremer does, start your own website. Most assuredly you will slither in your own “vapid blather”. We Agnostics have gone past Atheism and realize the exchange of Ideas is necessary for the Evolution of man’s collective understandingof the Cosmos. It’s a shame you bigots know everything already! Wake up and pay attention! You might learn something.

  13. Jeshua says:

    Unfortunately, YouTube has been declared dangerous to the health of socialism where i live, but after reading these conflicting reviews i’m definitely going to look up this video when i go back to the states in a few weeks to see what all the fuss is about. In my case i realize it will be “preaching to the choir,” so to speak.

    Nevertheless, there is so much pro-Xtianity BS floating around in society,it’s a relief to occasionally see a pitch for the other side. Whenever i see the giant illuminated cross with “Jesus Saves” in big letters on the turn to my sister’s house i always think how cool it would be to set up an identical display nearby and add “at Bank of America” at the bottom.”

    • slippery slope says:

      It is curious to me how, you can use presupposition to describe something which you know nothing of, yet speak with authority and still claim to be scientific. Is Christianity really BS? Or is that just convenient for your argument? hmmm.
      A scientist, wait-sorry-scratch that- A TRUE scientist will allow for any and all possibility, and will not speak with authority without absolute certainty. If such certainty existed, why not share it?
      There is no proof to support the non-belief, so instead people will choose to use linguistic trickery, and logical fallacy to support their claims, or non claims(cowards) as they may be.

      • Marc Blackburn says:

        Asking for proof to support non-belief is backwards: shown an empty box what proof is required not to believe it contains God? The fact that there is no proof to support a belief is proof enough not to believe.

        The notion that one should allow for any and all possibilities also includes the overwhelming possibility that belief in God in nothing more than delusion. Therefore all contrary possibilities are rendered moot and can be safely discarded. This is similar to the idea that showing the earth is a sphere renders the possibility of its being flat meaningless.

      • slippery slope says:

        I haven’t, nor will I ask anyone to prove anything.

        My only request was that people not speak authoritatively about things for which they do not know, or have proof of. Authoritatively.

        Since nobody has/could prove the non existence of God, is it not fair that out of respect for science, they allow for the possibility of his existence? I mean, out of respect for science…

      • Marc Blackburn says:

        But you are asking for proof. By your own logic, since you have no proof to support your belief in God, you shouldn’t be able to speak authoritatively on his existence.

        As I tried to point out, possibility is relative. If you insist on accepting any possibility, you have to accept the possibility that the possibility of a god’s existence is zero. The phenomenon of God can be explained without any god actually existing. The absolute dearth of evidence in his favour is proof of his nonexistence.

      • tmac57 says:

        Marc- I am generally in agreement with your position, but it is impossible to prove non-existence of anything. It is also not possible to prove something can’t happen. You can only prove that something exists or that it can happen.

    • MadScientists says:

      Perhaps you’ve heard kids ask eachother “why is Jesus rich”? “Because he saves.”

  14. Jeshua says:

    BTW, Poradin, you don’t know much about science do you? You said, “the truth of today is never the truth of tomorrow.” You should have said, “…is not always the truth of tomorrow,” but i won’t quibble. The point is, that is how science is *supposed* to work. Unlike the fairy tale creation story of the bible, scientific truth *changes* as we make new discoveries. Get it?

    • slippery slope says:

      BTW, Jeshua, that is semantics, not science…
      you already did ‘quibble’ as an excuse to inject some more assumption and presupposition. VERY scientific. bleh. No truth ever changes, only our perceptions of…

    • slippery slope says:

      To Mr Blackburn,
      ONCE AGAIN- I did not ask for proof of anything, only that pseudo-scientists stop labeling things as absolute when they simply don’t know. Next you talk about logic, let’s examine yours…

      “If you insist on accepting any possibility, you have to accept the possibility that the possibility of a god’s existence is zero.”

      So wait a minute, you say that if I allow for anything to be possible, I need to accept that the possibility of a possibility is zero?-How is that not a giant circle jerk?

      If you accept that all is possible, you must accept an absolute statement?(the possibility of a…)?

      It’s is like saying that if you allow for the possibility of tonight’s lotto numbers being 337, then you must accept the possibility that the possibility of the lotto being 337 is zero??? You jump from inference to supposition. I am just trying to connect the dots here.

      As for your second assertion, evidence and proof are two VERY different things, just ask OJ Simpson.

      • tmac57 says:

        Slippery- Actually ,Mr Blackburn had it exactly right.Think again.

      • slippery slope says:

        Where and in what regard Specifically Please? clever at the end there- Rather than tell me to think again, why don’t you think to begin with? That way, you can do more than make vague generalities-
        had IT? right? did he?

      • tmac57 says:

        S.S.-“Where and in what regard Specifically Please?”
        No, that would be cheating. We learn by doing.
        If I spelled it out for you, you would just deny it the same way that you did when Marc Blackburn originally made his comment. If you work it out for yourself, then you will more easily accept the result (not that I really expect you to try, but who knows?)

        May we live to learn well,
        And learn to live well.

      • slippery slope says:

        to your rebuttal below: (if you wanna call it one)

        Oh how VERY convenient for you not to have explained specifically the reason(s) for your statements. kewl. Are you in politics?

      • tmac57 says:

        S.S.- OK, I’ll bite. Your statement:”A TRUE scientist will allow for any and all possibility, and will not speak with authority without absolute certainty.”
        Marc’s statement:”As I tried to point out, possibility is relative. If you insist on accepting any possibility, you have to accept the possibility that the possibility of a god’s existence is zero.”
        You are the one who said “allow for ANY and ALL possibility”.
        So given that no one has yet PROVEN God’s existence (not in the scientific sense), then there is a POSSIBILITY that God doesn’t exist (non-zero). Case closed.

        May you be in Heaven fifteen minutes
        before the devil knows you are dead.

      • Marc Blackburn says:

        I thank tmac57 for clarifying the possibility of God’s existence.

        Slippery: You should check the definitions of proof and evidence. Other than that I don’t know what point you were trying to make.

        tmac57 says:

        … but it is impossible to prove non-existence of anything …

        That presumed truism is not the truth. If someone claims a 30-foot sequoia is growing from his ear, it is entirely possible to prove the tree’s non-existence. What you can’t prove is it’s non-existence to the person with the tree.

        The Abrahamic god has been well defined since the Hebrews first started writing their religious texts but most modern believers don’t seem to realize how drastically different their god is from the god of the old testament. The original Yahweh was one of many, human in form, and devilish in demeanour. Now god is some ethereal, omniscient, omnipotent, being that may or may not take and active interest in humankind. The reason for these successive changes through the centuries is simple: to protect the existence of god from repudiation. The only reason it is not possible to prove god doesn’t exist is because with every new scientific fact and every fortified philosophical argument, believers have scurried to blur the lines. It is evident that if god’s nature is definable according to the needs of his believers then god exists only to those who believe, or more specifically, to those who need him to exist.

        I question how is it that believers don’t recognize the audacity they show to put words in the mouth of an all-knowing god; and why it is that believers don’t admit that they are the only ones capable of condemning people to death for crimes against god. How is it that they can cite god’s wrath? Believers feel compelled to protect their god. What does that say of an all-powerful god? Believers feel compelled to spread his message of eternal life because god won’t — but he will condemn you to hell for eternity if you don’t listen to some nut-bar on the corner with a loudspeaker warning everyone to repent. What does that say of an all-loving god? It is evident that god is human and hidden in the nooks and crannies of the minds of believers. That being his safe haven, how could He possibly exist without believers?

      • tmac57 says:

        Marc- Right you are, on that example.Here is a better explanation of what I meant; from a list of common fallacies:
        Proving non-existence: when an arguer cannot provide the evidence for his claims, he may challenge his opponent to prove it doesn’t exist (e.g., prove God doesn’t exist; prove UFO’s haven’t visited earth, etc.). Although one may prove non-existence in special limitations, such as showing that a box does not contain certain items, one cannot prove universal or absolute non-existence, or non-existence out of ignorance. One cannot prove something that does not exist. The proof of existence must come from those who make the claims.

        There are good ships, and there are wood ships,
        The ships that sail the sea.
        But the best ships, are friendships,
        And may they always be.

      • Marc Blackburn says:

        Yes, I realize that is where you’re coming from. The onus is on the person making the assertion, they can’t logically hide behind an unreasonable demand to prove the negative of their assertion.

        What I’m trying to stress is that hiding behind the typical “can’t prove a negative” and “can’t prove non-existence” is not as secure a position as it is given credit. You can prove a negative, and you can prove the non-existence of something. It really depends upon how reasonable – and realistically — the concepts are defined. No christian has difficulty accepting, or even providing, proof that Zeus doesn’t exist. Therein lies the hypocrisy of hiding behind an invisible god.

        I still maintain that it is possible to prove that any specific god does not exist if for no other reason than it is logically impossible for any one god to exist over any other. And frankly, if God came knocking at my door I’d ask to see his credentials and have him prove to me there wasn’t someone more qualified for the position.

      • slippery slope says:

        Beliefs are learned just as knowledge is. The difference is knowledge seeks proof, where belief seeks nothing. Belief is better called a philosophy. Would you ask someone for absolute concrete proof for the relevance of a philosophy they held?
        Knowledge is different. Knowledge speaks in facts and figures. The challenge of the philosophy which aims to combine knowledge and belief is simple. If we had no beliefs, and only worked with knowledge, wouldn’t be exist merely as robots? Persuasion is what drives beliefs, where evidence drives knowledge. Get it?

      • slippery slope says:

        ok I came back. Mark, the point is:

        Just allowing for a possibility would end the bitter resentment and utter disdain shown by “non-believers”. That wouldn’t be kewl though would it?
        I do not ask you to believe what I do, nor do I tell you in absolute terms that I can prove God. Show me the same respect. Earlier you talked about possibilities of things possible- only challenge I had was in the WAY you presented it. When you said:

        “If you insist on accepting any possibility, you have to accept the possibility that the possibility of (insert argument) is zero.”

        By stating what you did, the WAY you did, you are attempting to turn the word possibility into a statement of fact. I do not need to accept that the possibility OF a possibility is zero. Unless some proof has been presented to indicate thus. It has not. So then, the possibility OF a possibility cannot be stated in absolute terms. You follow?

        Circular logic does not impress me, and really only serves to show what a straw man argument you have. Otherwise you’d just be a straight talker… I dunno, maybe your a gay talker… Joking. But even if I wasn’t, would that be considered ‘offensive’?

        Probably would if you found that “lifestyle” to be the same. The biggest challenge in America today is the mindset that offending people is inherently bad. It is not. Quote unquote hate crime legislation is the end of freedom of speech if it is taken seriously.

        Behaviors and “lifestyles” that I don’t agree with, under freedom of speech, I should have the absolute right to condemn or make fun of in any way I see fit. Regardless of the emotional/economical impact it might have on others. How other people choose to view any idea is not my, nor the responsibility of anyone else.
        If I make a statement, write or draw something that someone else comes across, if after they see it or hear it, they decide to commit a crime THEY committed the crime. One example is the cartoon in that European newspaper which made fun of Mohamed, the Islamic prophet a while back. The picture incited crime, but the cartoonist didn’t commit any crime. The same idiocy happens with the “drug laws” in the US. Why should it be illegal to snort coke, or smoke weed or crack, or shoot heroin? They tell you it is because when people do those things, they are more likely to commit crimes… Being likely to commit a crime, and committing a crime are two different things, aren’t they? How about speeding, or driving drunk? Nope, nobody got hurt. Unless they DID, in which case a crime worthy of punishment would have been committed. Sorry to rant, if I got off topic. It just seems that all these issues are lumped in together, in a way that conditions Americans to give up control and concede it to “authorities”… Who benefits from that? Probably the commies that want America finished so they can role out their plan for complete worldwide slavery unopposed. Just a thought. wuddayu think???

      • Marc Blackburn says:

        slippery slope says: “Belief is better called a philosophy.”

        You should study some philosophy, or at least learn what philosophy is before making such a ridiculous statement. You are using philosophy in a loosely colloquial sense, whereas philosophy is actually a scientific endeavour of sorts. It is a study of the structure of thought. It analyzes belief, among other things, it does not indulge belief. It’s foundation is a system of logical proofs and though the early philosophers were most often devout christian, those philosophers that attempted to affirm belief in god simply don’t hold up to modern arguments.

        You throw around references to logical fallacies as if you understood them. It was you, not I, who maintained that any and all possibilities must to be given credence, now you accuse me of circular logic because I point out the logical conclusion to your statement. You don’t understand the concept of circular logic. And where is the straw man, how does that fit in? I get the impression that you are either very young, or simply haven’t done your homework. You should read what your antagonist says and try to understand it before responding. Failing that you should at least understand what you yourself are talking about.

        As for the rest of your post, it is a rant, and it is not clear that it is even intended for me. Is it supposed to be anti gay? It also seems to support the notion that hate speech should be protected as freedom of speech. But I have also noticed that you take offense easily and assume personal slight where there is none. Pointing out that your argument is stupid is not the same as calling you stupid. You started your post asking me to show you some respect. Why, I wonder? “The biggest challenge in America today is the mindset that offending people is inherently bad.” But in truth I have shown you much more respect that you have exhibited towards others. I pointed out what I feel are the flaws with your reasoning and suggested alternative points of view which, to my mind, would serve you better. If that offends you, or you feel that it is disrespectful of your beliefs, I feel no need to apologize.

      • slippery slope says:

        I’m not sure where this post will pop up in this blog roll, but this is in response to your post which you ended by saying you feel no need to apologize. so here we go:

        1st: “You are using philosophy in a loosely colloquial sense”- ok, something wrong with that? I wasn’t saying belief IS philosophy as much as I was saying it is MORE LIKE a philosophy than is knowledge. Believe it or not, there is a difference between statements of fact, and symbolism. In fact, if more effort went toward understanding symbolism, a lot of arguments about the bible might end. Nice cut and paste job though…

        2nd: “You throw around references to logical fallacies as if you understood them”- presupposition-you fail to state HOW a misunderstanding occurred.
        Besides, throwing around references to logical fallacy is better than basing your entire argument upon them, isn’t it?…

        3rd: “You should read what your antagonist says and try to understand it before responding.”- More presupposition, you see: By asserting that either haven’t read completely, or understood your premise, you attempt to strike my entire argument. Yet, you fail to cite specifically what was misunderstood, or missed. Seems you should take your own advice when it comes to understanding what your antagonist has said prior to reacting. Make note that I used the word react instead of respond. Reacting is response absent consideration. I DID in fact consider your views prior to responding. You of course agree that I responded rather than react:
        “to understand it before responding”

        As for my “rant”- no. It is not intended to be anti gay, even if you coloured it that way. But you know what, who cares if it was “anti-gay”. Is that a crime? to be anti-gay?

        Never the less, the rant was just an observation of how “discrimination” and “hate speech” being demonized has created a culture of irresponsible finger pointing ninnies, many of whom feel entitled to respect for their culture. You can either choose to respect me, or not. Depending upon the level of respect I hold for you, your choice to disrespect me may not affect me in the least. But that would be MY choice, and you could not possibly be held responsible for how I choose to view you or your behavior toward me. So yes, hate speech SHOULD be protected under free speech. If someone chooses hate speech, let them suffer the consequences of it which might naturally occur. But to make it illegal is to say to the American people, ‘you are not in control of what you can or cannot say’. How does that promote free speech, and the free exchange of ideas?
        You also went on to assert that I “take offense easily, and assume personal slight”..

        So please, do tell. How is it that you can make such assumptions to what I am thinking at any particular time, or what is motivating me to say, or do any thing? The fact is: your arguments are weak and your tone is strong, do you work in middle management?
        In your next reply, save your breath trying to give me advice on what I “should” do. Rather, show me a better way without trying appeal to authority or any other persuasion tactic.
        While you are at it, figure out a better way to disguise your use of logical fallacy so it blends in with your argument(s) instead of basing your banter on them. good luck & cheers! tiz Friday… ;)

      • Marc Blackburn says:

        “The fact is: your arguments are weak and your tone is strong, do you work in middle management?”

        I just have to ask: Am I dealing with an adult? You just haven’t given me anything to respond to.

      • slippery slope says:

        My reply to your post which ended “But the best ships, are friendships,And may they always be.” was posted in the wrong place. cute poem btw.This is getting even harder to follow. Anyway, the reply I posted went below another person’s post and ended with my asking if you “get it?”

      • slippery slope says:

        To Marc Blackburn: In response to your underhanded attempt at an insult- No, I am not a child.

        However, you sir, are an inconsiderate, illogical, elementary, redundant, ass hat, in my humble opinion…

        If you haven’t found anything to respond to, then perhaps you should go and take some time away in order to brush up on your understanding of the English language, as well as semantics, logical fallacy, and persuasion BEFORE you go getting yourself into arguments which are Clearly waaaaaay over your head. While you are at it, why don’t you also go f&%$ yourself with that other ass clown from earlier. Then if you feel that you have learned enough, come on back to the blog and offer something that actually merits a few moments time to think about. WIll you do it? Do you have the nerve? …only time will tell

  15. frank says:

    very clever and enjoyable in a way

    – but oh! – how i wish for a balanced and fair go of a reply.

    i would suggest that the folks @ could give a sensible and reasoned response to the ‘scientific difficulties’ mentioned (certainly to quash the (dare i call them)- slurs)

    c.s.lewis and his ilk i found to have satisfying elucidations of the theological questions raised

    best regards,


  16. Ken Despain says:

    We search and search for understanding of the world around us. The business of living often gets in the way of the search. So we often must cling to the version of the truth that comes from sources we trust. Only now in a time when we have the luxury to spend more of our energies pursuing more fruitful methods of discovery do we find ourselves in conflict with the long established sources of “truth”. That conflict is necessary to create the tension that pushes us to further refine our methods so as to be more successful in our search.
    I think the conflict in necessary because without it blind acceptance and apathy creep into our systems. Unfortunately, that conflict occasionally leads to 9/11 type events.

    Mr Shermers’ video pointedly depicts the conflict between the two popular methods of searching for the truth. Those, being faith in the parables of ancient scriptures and the systematic application of empirical reasoning and the faith in conclusions of others who use the same approach (science).

    It’s great to see such work being done. But, I not sure how it contributes to the search. I’d appreciate any enlightenment if there is any to be had.

    • slippery slope says:

      Zionism led to 9/11- nothing else.
      The only enlightenment that will matter is found humbly in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. All else is merely justification of comfort.

      • William says:

        May I take Buddha instead? He taught the same types of things.

      • slippery slope says:


        You can take whatever you want, I will not condemn you, or judge you in any way. However, if you were to ask me who I follow, beyond the shadow of any doubt- I follow Jesus Christ.

        Now William, were you sincerely asking me, a mortal human man, who/what to follow in regard to salvation of your soul, or were you just being a sarcastic jerk? Either way, I really do hope the best for you, and that you find your way. Good luck,
        & Cheers!

      • tmac57 says:

        Slippy-“or were you just being a sarcastic jerk? ”
        Nice Christian attitude that you are modeling.

  17. Ken Despain says:

    Well, as I said; we search and search. Seldom are there any truly satisfying answers.

    • slippery slope says:

      Try asking a truly satisfying question…

      • slippery slope says:

        To Ken Despain,

        In all seriousness, if you really are searching for the answers you will find them. In order to see them clearly though, you must rid yourself of prejudices, and emotion. Be honest with yourself in your search, cuz nobody else cares. Good luck.

  18. William says:

    Love to have a good laugh in the morning. Its too bad that Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians (and fundies of other religions) have to try and make their religious myths literal. The convolutions and gyrations they have to go thru to do that are mind boggling.

    • slippery slope says:

      I believe in Jesus Christ, yet you will not find me gyrating nor convoluted. Evangelical Christians/”fundies” are passionate, yet they may not know fully how to explain the source of their excitement- thus the stigma’s have been assigned by the kewl kids in class.
      You will find me steadfastly humble. Amazed, that assumption has wiggled so far into discourse. Too bad jealousy seethes through your attempt at sarcasm. Why are you so jealous of my faith? Could it possibly be that when you look deep down into the depths of your being to find hope and love, all that is there for you is empty rhetoric, and ‘scientific theory’? My faith is a rock, how bout yours?…

  19. Jeshua says:

    Ah, but you missed the point entirely, Mr. Slippery! The point is that science changes what we believe to be the truth at the time in light of new discoveries, whereas religion starts with what is claimed as the truth and believers do whatever twists and back flips are required to try to make their religion conform. I’ll agree my previous post had some semantic problems, but where are the “assumptions and presuppositions”?

    BTW, i was being facetious when i said i wouldn’t quibble. I’m always ready for a good quibble!

    • slippery slope says:

      See how you desperately look to find just one thing in my post that you can cling onto and say “Ah, but you missed the point entirely”. NO. I missed nothing.

      When I say something you don’t understand, the onus is on me to find a better way to explain it, not the other way around.

      Now, science doesn’t change a damn thing but perception. Truth will always be true, no matter how it is viewed or by whom. Religion is only one perception of a thing. It is not the thing in itself. I personally do not follow any religion, I follow Jesus Christ.

      What you describe when you talk about followers creating pathways to belief is actually called cognitive dissidence. The assumption and the presupposition in your previous post occurred in the same line when you said:

      “Unlike the fairy tale creation story of the bible, scientific truth *changes* as we make new discoveries.”

      So have you any absolute proof that the bible is a fairy tale? No?-Then that would be an assupmtion.

      When you add “the” to “the fairy tale” in your assertion about the bible, you turn assumption to presupposition.
      Now go finish your milk and cookies and take a nap before I get upset and assign you extra homework…

      • Mark says:

        So, slippery, you’re upset that someone made a truth claim, bible is not true, without sufficient proof. But clearly you are making a truth claim of some sort re: Jesus, and it would seem that the wide variety of human cultures & origin myths would not support you.

        The existence of such a variety of sacred expressions (for lack of a better word) would better support the idea of the bible being fiction than it would any one person’s faith in one specific deity that has arisen in/from human culture.

        Just not sure what your point is, because while you seem to be arguing that we cannot know absolute truth, where does that really get you? It is a poor weapon against someone who asks “show me some proof.” There is a great Carl Sagan excerpt dealing with that very concept — it’s called something like “Dragon in My Garage,” and is worth a read to maybe get the viewpoint of a non-believer. Not that I like that term, since there are many things I manage to avoid dealing with on a daily basis (unicorns, centaurs, whathave you). But I guess I shouldn’t be so close minded as to ignore the possibility of magic white horses with a single horn resembling those of the Narwhal, eh? Anything is possible

      • slippery slope says:

        First to tmac57, in regard to your: “Slippy-”or were you just being a sarcastic jerk? ”
        Nice Christian attitude that you are modeling.
        Cheers!”… tmac-Nice underhanded attempt at character assassination. Really caught me by surprise that you would rather point at me and my behavior rather than the argument i bring. Kinda like the whole anti-semite racist thing right? I mean, if I am a mean person, how could I possibly make any logical sense regarding any and all other subject matter?! pathetic. As for my response to your assertion that I’ve not displayed “good” Christian behavior-go f*#@ yourself!

        you said: “But clearly you are making a truth claim of some sort”-No. I make no ‘truth claim’ as you put it. Question- If it was clear, how could it also be ‘of some sort’? Clearly you haven’t a clue.
        Yes it WOULD seem that the wide variety of human cultures & origin myths would not support me. Good thing I do not need or use either of those things to decide the factual relevance of biblical text. Social proof aside. Whether one theory is allegedly better supported or not, it still does not leave satisfactory reason to state things in absolutes. I haven’t, unless as a description of my own faith which of course would be a statement of fact. If a non believer was seriously inquiring about proof, I would most likely do more listening than talking. Why do you NEED proof, in order to have a belief? What I think we are now arguing is the difference between belief and knowledge. Lets just say hypothetically that God created us because of loneliness and boredom. Let’s then say hypothetically that he made us in a way that we could choose to be flawed or not. Let’s say the reason for that is, if you are trying to combat loneliness and boredom, robots who follow your every command probably wouldn’t cut it for long. Then, try to imagine that every experience, thought, and feeling you have had, have, or will ever have, is but a single note in the symphony orchestra being played by the creator. Of course, I have no proof of these things, but I hold them as possibilities and ask you to do the same. Thank you for your considerations.

      • tmac57 says:

        slippery slope said:”As for my response to your assertion that I’ve not displayed “good” Christian behavior-go f*#@ yourself!”
        Need I say more?

      • kabol says:

        As for my response to your assertion that I’ve not displayed “good” Christian behavior-go f*#@ yourself!

        tsk tsk. WWJD?

    • slippery slope says:

      to uranium235:
      Yes, I want you to define humble since, maybe I got it wrong. While you’re at it, why don’t you explain the apparent sarcasm of your post and what it ties in with, that way we can have an accountable argument… Or is labeling just more convenient for you? Don’t “jewish” people do that when someone disagrees with them? Don’t they label you an “anti-semite”? Whether or not you have any valid point(s) it is just easier to point a finger and label. Don’t “black” people do the same thing with the word racist? It seems easier than having to explain yourself doesn’t it…

      • Uranium235 says:

        Slippery Slope, I didn’t realize I was going to have to educate on the ridiculousness of your post, but after reading more of your inane ramblings, I’ve realized you need quite a bit of help. I’ll stick with explaining my original post for now, since it has obviously confused you.

        Your post states: “You will find me steadfastly humble”, then you go on to say: “Why are you so jealous of my faith?” and “My faith is a rock, how bout yours?”

        To be humble means to be modest, to not have an overbearing self-worth or self-importance. Clearly you were not being humble when ridiculing the person you responded to and asserting that your faith is far better than his.

        Your analogy to Jewish labeling is very good (oh wait more sarcasm). If I made a statement like “I’m Jewish” followed by a statement like “I worship Vishnu and pray to Mecca”, then you could say “he must be jewish” in the same sarcastic tone that I used.

        I hope you’ve learned a thing or two about sarcasm and the word humble.

      • slippery slope says:


      • slippery slope says:

        My being steadfastly humble is in relation to God, not my faith in him. At no point did I ridicule anyone, nor did I advocate my faith as better than anyone’s. Faith is a relative thing, isn’t it. Since it’s relative, my faith being a rock isn’t a statement of self importance nor could it be any better or worse. Unless, that is- in a hierarchy created by God, it would be better to have more faith in his son than less. Wouldn’t you agree? As far as my learning anything from you about sarcasm or humility, see below.

      • slippery slope says:

        Rather, see above-this forum is structured differently than what I am used to…

  20. Neil says:

    “…quantum foam fluctuation…Big Bang…cosmological inflation…expanding universe…Quasars…Worm Holes…Black Holes…” You’re not skeptical about these “human creations”?

    These are much closer to being human discoveries than human creations, and even with margin for error factored in they are way closer to reality than virgin births, resurrections from the dead, talking snakes and all other magic and miracles. Ever seen a computer model or a mathematical equation for a miracle or for magic? Didn’t think so. I’ll stick with what we find in the Cosmos even with a certain percentage of error.

    • slippery slope says:

      AGAIN, In order to say authoritatively what is closer to “reality” don’t you need some kind of, nevermind…

      As far as computer models, go ahead and keep looking within a creation of man for an answer to questions man cannot answer himself.

      In the cosmos you will find compassion, forgiveness, and love. If those are not miracles, what is? Go and see a baby being born. Tell me that is just a mathematical equation. Tell me there is no miracle, and no magic.

      It really is pretty simple, there is love, or the absence of love. In the end, love will win.

      • MadScientists says:

        On my last trip around the solar system I stopped by Venus. The high temperatures and noxious atmosphere filled me with an overwhelming sense of compassion. I traveled to the frigid Neptunian planes and I found forgiveness. In the vast desserts of Mars I finally found love.

        Babies being born are not a mathematical equation, nor is there any magic nor any miracle to it. I presume you have a homocentric universe and that you mean “human babies” – in which case it’s very similar to many other animal births.

        Go love Osama; he’s in bad need of it and many people would love to win that one.

      • slippery slope says:

        Mad- “my last trip around the solar system I stopped by Venus. The high temperatures and noxious atmosphere filled me with an overwhelming sense of compassion. traveled to the frigid Neptunian planes and I found forgiveness, In the vast desserts of Mars I finally found love.”

        ok, -HOW?

        As far as Osama, he’s just a patsy for the CIA and Mossad serving zionism and attempting to stomp out Christianity. Zionism is a disease. It is the cause of every major conflict today.
        And for the record, I have love for everyone, even you. Just because someone is misinformed, acting on bad information, does not translate to malice but I am sure you’ll learn that one in time. In the end LOVE wins.

      • tmac57 says:

        Slippery slope said:”And for the record, I have love for everyone,even you”
        Slippery Slope ALSO said”As for my response to your assertion that I’ve not displayed “good” Christian behavior-go f*#@ yourself!”

      • tmac57 says:

        Slopey-“As far as computer models, go ahead and keep looking within a creation of man for an answer to questions man cannot answer himself.”
        Computers are a tool. Scientists, use that tool, they don’t look within it for an answer. An analogy would be a car jack. Man by himself could not lift a 6000lb car, but with the aid of a jack (tool) he is able to amplify his abilities. He does not ask the jack for an answer to his problem.

      • slippery slope says:

        If man doesn’t know properly how to use the tool, meaning toward what end, of what good use could it be?
        Your analogy of a jack, kewl he can lift the car up in the air. What if all that’s wrong with it, is it needs new windshield wipers? Lotta good a jack would do there.
        Without knowing the goal, tools are irrelevant.

  21. bill babishoff says:

    This is good evidence that science is the new religion.
    The big bang theory has NOT been proven, why cling to it?
    Because they see no other explanation that makes sense. Isn’t that the same as religion?
    I was shocked hearing Mr. Shermer say the brain may be hardwired for religion. Wow. We have a need to understand, to find patterns. This is the root of religion. We want to know how and why. Men corrupted that need and created religion to control us. Religions are governments.
    The things that religious people seem to need like hope, faith and belief are simply not necessary to me as a non believer.

    There is no void, nothing lacking. Losing my religion, it’s more like a scab that fell off.
    You needed that scab to protect you while your wounded. Now that the wound is healed, the scab is no longer needed and the body sluffs it off.
    As important as the scab was during times of injury, it is now an unnecessary relic, and somewhat grotesque. Eventually we will get wounded again and a new scab will form. This scab will be slightly different than the other one because it is made for a specific wound.
    It does however, serve the same purpose and when that need is fulfilled, the scab sluffs off and once again the cycle starts. This is how religion works and why there are so many of them. This is why people jump from one belief to another. Religions are psychological scabs. If you remove them too soon the wound will reopen. This is the danger of trying to convince someone that their religion is wrong. It’s better to help the wound heal and let the scab sluff off at the appropriate time.
    We should be skeptical of both religion and science.

    • MadScientists says:

      But Bill: who made god? If he had a daddy, did he come about after one big bang? If he doesn’t have a daddy, then why not? god doesn’t explain anything but instead raises many questions (most of which are really not worth bothering with).

      • slippery slope says:

        Here’s a thought that you might find interesting:

        “All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration,
        we are all one consciousness experiencing itself
        subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is
        only a dream, we are only the imagination of ourselves”

      • bill babishoff says:

        I am not defending the belief in god, but the same problem exists with the big bang theory. What caused the big bang, where did all the matter come from? If the universe is expanding that means it has borders. What’s on the other side?
        I thought I spelled it out pretty clear, maybe you should re-read my post to try and get an idea of what I was trying to say. I am slamming belief in god and at the same time saying science is acting like a religion.

      • slippery slope says:

        Sorry Bill, it was MadScientist that I should have addressed with my comment.

        To tmac57, you need not say more, in fact, leave this blog right now!!! kidding. but this is getting kinda hard to follow now because there are tags that say reply, and when you do, the reply doesn’t go where it appeared it might. Why don’t we start a new one to clean up the confusion a bit. Just a thought. If that is what happens, someone please shoot me an email at and lemme know the title etc… Thanks.

      • slippery slope says:

        Just realized what you did timmy mac. You tried to regurgitate the same lame attempt at character assassination, you’re a liberal aren’t you?…
        Look, in regard to your argument(s) bring a strong one or none at all. Rhetoric, name calling, linguistic trickery, influence, and logical fallacy hardly qualifies as debate. Unless we are addressing the average American citizen of today who knows not the differences between these things. Either way, the reality of this argument is moot because no matter how loud you yell and shout, people are going to believe whatever they may. The only way to make progress with people like that is to persuade them of a better system. The tools of argument used thus far on this blog would hardly qualify as such. holler back yo.

      • tmac57 says:

        slippy,slippy,slippy- When you find that you’ve dug yourself into a hole, it’s time to just stop digging.
        S.S. said-“You tried to regurgitate the same lame attempt at character assassination”.
        I only reposted YOUR own words. Which of MY words were “character assassination”?
        “Rhetoric”? From Merriam Webster:1: the art of speaking or writing effectively. Okay, I’ll accept that.
        “linguistic trickery, influence” Okay, why not, I’ll accept that too.
        “logical fallacy” Not so much.
        “hardly qualifies as debate. ” More like a disembowelment.
        “Either way, the reality of this argument is moot because no matter how loud you yell and shout, people are going to believe whatever they may. ” So stop yelling and shouting,Slippy.
        Oh, and I almost forgot, yes I am a liberal.Boy,you really zinged me there partner.Guess I won’t be messin’ with the likes of you no more!

        A toast to bread,
        as without bread,
        we’d have no toast.

      • tmac57 says:

        bill-“If the universe is expanding that means it has borders. What’s on the other side?”
        It might well be that this question has no meaning,because the concept of ‘something’ having to be beyond a border arises from our common experience.It is so ingrained in our view of the way the things work that it is impossible to imagine ‘non-existence’ beyond a border, so it is undefined.The same kind of problem arises when trying to comprehend infinity.

      • slippery slope says:

        timmy mac57,
        You ask which of your words were an (poor) attempt at character assassination. Wasn’t your words, WAS the way you framed my words. The news does that all the time. Basically a cut and paste job. VERY clever.
        And yes, rhetoric is the art of writing effectively. Toward what end do you write? Oh, you mean, you have a motive? So you aren’t engaged in this out of curiosity with intent of discovery? Oh how VERY scientific!
        As for your being a liberal, there is a cure for that syndrome which affects so many Americans today, it is very inexpensive and available to all who seek it. It is called truth and common sense. As for your “won’t be messin’ with the likes of you no more!”

        What made you think you could ever mess with me to begin with??? -tiz a cute imagination you’ve.

    • MadScientists says:

      Oh, I forgot to mention: science is extremely skeptical of itself. Religion is not; it promotes itself by condemning thought through indoctrination.

      • slippery slope says:

        Faith and belief are very personal things

        Religion is not. There is a big difference between the two. It seems like people who lump the two things together do so, as a convenient way to dismiss them both. They throw out the baby along with the bath water. Religion is about putting asses in chairs and money in coffers. Television is a religion. Just something you follow. Faith and belief on the other hand, are actually what drive your thoughts. Sell yourself on Love, and the questions go away. good luck.

      • slippery slope says:

        forgot to mention, in selling yourself on love, judgment and prejudice cannot enter the picture or the paradigm gets cloudy and the end result is confusion.

    • slippery slope says:

      consider love.

      • bill babishoff says:

        Love is a psychosis. I’d like to see Mr. Shermer try and prove or disprove the existence of love outside the psychotic mind. Also, Love was one of the greatest rock bands of the 1960’s.

      • slippery slope says:

        ever see animals?

      • tmac57 says:

        I ‘love’ “House of the Rising Sun”!

      • bill babishoff says:

        I saw Eric Burden once, although it wasn’t the original Animals, it was still a great show.

      • slippery slope says:

        as in Live animals. psychosis is only man’s way of describing something. Love is absolute.

      • slippery slope says:

        Where is the nobility in proof? If it is blatantly obvious that something is, it becomes common knowledge. How many common knowledge specialists are sought out? None-no value. Unless we are recruiting for jeopardy. Trivia is what it would amount to. Once again, it just seems to come down to two different goals:
        Some who want knowledge seek proof
        others who want peace seek love, and find it through belief. Why condemn?
        On the other hand, I wasn’t even alive in the sixties so I know not much about that time. Could you please tell me anything positive that came out of that period of time? Besides drug and pregnancy tests?…

  22. Motonine says:

    Compass is a program intended for Christian viewers so I think the presenter can be forgiven for referring to atheists as “They”. I watched the program when it aired and found it to be fair if rather bland, certainly not offensive. I have to disagree with Phillip Adams though, when he spoke of the loneliness of atheism, that is something I have never felt. A basic knowledge of physics and our interconectiveness with all other mater, is something believers will never feel. “We are made of star dust” to loosely quote one of the greats.

    • peterh says:

      From about Compass :
      Compass critically examines the world of belief and values, seeking meaning and a sense of purpose in life. It navigates the historical and contemporary, the personal and political, the religious and secular. Its guiding principle is to illuminate the spiritual and ethical journey, so revealing the broader issues of community and the shared experience of being human.

      If you look at past episodes ALL beliefs are examined
      12th April
      British theologian Robert Beckford investigates remarkable parallels to the Jesus story in other faiths; some that predate Christianity by thousands of years. He looks at the stories of Horus, Mithras, Krishna and the Buddha

    • Max says:

      I don’t feel connected to stars. It’s not the raw material that makes you, it’s the structure. If you don’t believe me, stick your head in a blender.

      • slippery slope says:

        good point Max, and doesn’t structure denote intelligence?

      • Max says:

        Snowflakes have structure that I wouldn’t attribute to any intelligence.

      • slippery slope says:

        I could say the same for your statements, which, while structured…

        Reaching. Is the best word I could find to describe the arguments (all of them) that I have heard in regard to atheism. Agnostics might be cowardly in their approach to the subject, but at least they have enough respect not to speak authoritatively. No matter, time will reveal, and love will win.
        a great quote:
        “I will make love my greatest weapon, and none on who I call can defend against its force” -Og Mandino

      • Max says:

        I give you a straight answer, and you respond with insults. Where’s the love?

    • MadScientists says:

      I disagreed with much of what Phillip Adams said. Perhaps when he spoke of the “loneliness” he might have been thinking of the ostracization of non-believers in a predominantly godnagging community. I’ve met many people over the years who seem decent enough folk but thanks to their upbringing, as Shermer mentioned if they find out you don’t believe in any god at all you’re worse than a communist and you’re the greatest enemy of the nation.

      • slippery slope says:

        To Max,
        You have never insulted someone you love? hmmm. convenient. Character assissination is not an argument.

    • slippery slope says:

      To all who wish to debate this further, feel free to email me at

      I welcome your opinions, and hope I can be of help but this blog is now starting to read like stereo instructions and my eyes are going batty. It would be nice if there were reply tags under every post, but there has been lots of jumping around. Anywho, gotta go now-it’s been a pleasure,

    • slippery slope says:

      Compass, is a program which, when mentioned changes the entire argument. Literally. Changes the subject from what we WERE talking about, to, compass-whatever that is. My guess is it has something to do with atheism which really amounts to nothing much.

  23. Allison says:

    It is impossible to prove God does not exist, but you can try. In this case, there are far too many variables to conduct a comprehensive experiment. If all human beings have contemplated the existence of a God, a common thread is woven between civilizations and human nature in general. The origin of this question is impossible to explain. It is a natural instinct for human beings to ponder over the existence of a God, and that distinguishes us from all other creatures. Why do we ponder over this? Was it a survival skill or does a larger brain equal the desire to ponder higher beings? Other creatures do not need to believe in God to survive. Most natural instincts have a purpose, and this instinct, to ponder God’s existence, should be studied further. Why do we have this instinct?
    If God created human beings through evolution, wouldn’t he instill in us the natural desire to seek God. It is similar to the instinct between a mother and child, but most importantly the instinct to love others. Human beings have the capacity to love one another in extreme ways, and I think the capacity to have faith in a God is a very natural thing. How do we know God hasn’t created this instinct in us for a reason. It’s quite bold to turn our back on something so natural. We can not see love or grasp it, but we know it exists and can appreciate its purpose.
    It’s quite simple for me, but I know it is difficult for people to embrace the natural instinct to believe in God. It is very similar to following your natural instinct to love others, to eat, to avoid danger, etc. It is easier than suppressing something that has been a natural thought in human beings since our existence.
    That must mean something right, or is it just a flaw in evolution? Seems to me if believing in God wasn’t needed, over time evolution would have eliminated it. I would be curious to see what would happen if 50 children of various ethnic backgrounds were placed in an isolated environment to live with no influence from the outside world except for education. They would learn the most advanced science, literature, technology, math, arts, etc. Do you think they would come up with the idea to worship a God, to seek a higher purpose in life, or to start a religion? I think they probably would. It’s in our genes.

    • Marc Blackburn says:

      I don’t buy the assertion that it is not possible to prove God doesn’t exist — given that the proof is confined to the god of Hebrew scripture. No one has a problem with proofs refuting the existence of the ancient Greek deities. I posted more on this in No. 14 so maybe enough said.


      Your idea of belief being an instinct instilled by God is well taken, but falls short of being any real argument in favour of the existence of a god by assuming the very thing that it attempts to prove. Personally I believe that there is a god instinct instilled by evolution and I agree with much of your assessment. But I am an atheist and atheists are a product of evolution too. We don’t know if humans have stopped evolving; one could presume that given the right conditions we could continue to evolve. And given that possibility, it is not clear the god instinct would survive. Many creatures have now useless appendages; many creatures have dropped useless appendages. That is the nature of evolution: change means discarding that which is of no value to survival and developing that which displays value. I don’t know how long the human species is likely to survive, whether it has time to evolve into anything capable of surviving beyond this planet’s ability to support us, but it is my feeling that the god instinct, if not atrophied, will be our doom. It will be a self-fulfilling prophesy of end of days.

      Bear in mind just how young a species we are and how much damage we have done to our chances for survival. We are an evolutionary equivalent to cavemen. It will only be a pragmatic species that can survive conscious involvement in its evolution. Fanciful notions of god’s will and protection lead us to disdain of our most precious commodity: the ability to learn and shape our own destiny, to shape ourselves into something new and lasting. Religion reels in horror of science’s attempts to learn the mysteries of life, claiming the province of god. Religion fears that man will change himself, remove himself from god’s plan. But that is exactly what is needed. We need to become our own makers. Evolution is too slow. Our survival is paramount and belief is a yoke that that must be cast aside if it will not allow us to grow. How things are is not how they are supposed to be, they are how things are now, that is all. Ancient texts do not prescribe the destiny of humanity, they chain us to the past. The natural instinct to embrace god should be analyzed and seen for what it is: something to indulge in moderation and understanding, and be willing to drop if its effects become troublesome. But just as it is difficult to tell a drunk that he’s had more than is wise, it’s difficult to convince a believer that he is overly indulgent. Thank god for creating atheists to remind him.

  24. bill babishoff says:

    Allison, or should I say Mrs. Cleaver,
    One does not have to prove something does not exist, it’s on you to prove that it does.
    How do you know that all humans ponder the existence of god?
    How do you know animals don’t ponder god?
    No one has ever proven love exists.
    In one sentence you say it’s natural to ponder god then in another you say it’s hard for some. What gives?
    I’ve got news for you. Over time evolution IS eliminating the desire to seek a mythical god. This web page and your need to post a comment are examples of that.
    What has love got to do with religion?
    Ever read the bible? How about the old testament? Not a lotta love there!
    Look how jesus treated others who didn’t follow him.
    Look how religions dealt with other competitive religions.
    Do you love islamic martyrs? They love god as much if not more than anyone.
    How about pentacostle snake worshipers? Hssssss says god.
    Remember the inquisition? Believe or die!
    The Salem witch hunts? Gotta love them witches before you burn ‘em!

    As far as your challenge of raising 50 children with only education?
    I will paraphrase a quote in your bible. If you don’t teach children about god when their young they won’t believe it when they are grown. It’s in there I just can’t tell you exactly where. I’m sure you won’t mind reading the bible to find it.
    By the way, how many times have you read the bible?
    Does it make sense to you? If so you are the only one.

    Yes, you are a good example of blind faith.

    • s says:

      You said: “how many times have you read the bible?
      Does it make sense to you? If so you are the only one.”

      So is that why it is still, after decades, even centuries-still the widest read book in circulation? prolly not.

  25. Max says:

    First libertarianism, now atheism, hitting all the taboo topics :-)
    Someone call Daniel Loxton.

  26. Allison says:

    Ok, Ok. No need to get mad. I’m just offering another opinion. I have nothing against science, science is the future. The Bible’s history is indeed flawed. Constantine called the Council of Nicea in 330ish AD to determine the contents of the Bible after he made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire. I think Early Christians already had several books, and then Constantine and fellow Romans/newly converted Christians decided which ones to use to create the complete Bible. Constantine claimed to be a converted Christian, but no one really knows. He could have just realized the tide was changing and wanted to ride on a beneficial political wave. I believe the Bible was compiled by men in a political fashion. They could have destroyed books that didn’t cooperate with the political agenda of the Early Christian church which was sort of hijacked by the Romans.

    However, they couldn’t destroy everything in the Bible or eliminate all the writing of early Christians. The final product was left to the early Christian scribes to produce the Codex and when it came down to it, the Romans probably let them do their own thing after the initial approval of the texts.
    I think the Romans had other things on their mind, they just wanted to make sure the Church would work as a political force. Essentially, I think the Romans hastily thought over the texts of the Bible, approved and disapproved texts, and then let the early Christians handle the paperwork.

    I don’t think the Bible is a piece of literature that should be taken literally, but I recognize the spiritual value in it’s text. I realize that humans are flawed creatures, but we are also not one sided. You can’t simply rely on knowledge in life. Everything needs it’s opposite right? It happens all the time, if you are all work no play you become burned out, you lose contact with friends and family, etc. etc.. We need a spiritual balance to our analytical mind.

    Of course this is just my opinion, and I respect your opinions. Maybe having blind faith in something doesn’t seem correct analytically but spiritually it fits. Of course, I am an overly optimistic artist/Libra day-dreamer.
    Anyway, cheers gentlemen! God is Love! Peace.

  27. frank says:

    hypothetically if god does exist (and we are thinking of ??? being outside the square – actually outside our time/space domain – as a child sets up a table-top theater) then s/he/it may have left the building allowing us to get on with it, or s/he/it may still be fully involved – either in a Machiavellian way, or in a loving purposeful way.

    case 1. and case 2. forget it – we are on our own

    case 3. s/he/it cares and has a cunning (loving)plan.

    – if so it would not be surprising to find hints, clues, direct evidence of ???’s existence.
    – diligent unbelievers who have tested this have found the evidence compelling. eg there exist about a dozen ancient references to Julius Caesar and we accept his historicity. For the other J.C. there exist 100’s of ancient documents, and a movement with an unbroken thread connecting contempory believers with the ancient witnesses. (there are many wild and perverted offshoots as well, but it isn’t impossible to find the genuine article)

    this is not blind faith! – nor indoctrination.

    sift the evidence, check the stories.

    Now, if an old prophet writing in a manuscript from hundreds of years before the event can detail the birth and describe in detail the yet-to-be-invented form of death; is that not a fingerprint, a watermark of the existence of ??? ?

  28. Neil says:

    Boy oh boy. There are some people here that need to purchase a baloney detection kit and learn what the argument from incredulity is.
    And it may help for them to read some of Bart Ehrmans work on the bible.

    Just some thoughts.

    Keep up the good fight Mr. Shermer.

    • slippery slope says:

      Is it even possible to prove argument from incredulity without also putting to rest the debate over whether or not God is?

      As for Mr Ehrmans, a quick google search finds that:

      Search Results

      Professor Bart D. Ehrman – James A. Gray Distinguished Professor
      New York Times bestseller, Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman, one of the world’s leading authorities on the Bible…

      So he is one of the world’s leading authorities is he? And who exactly determines that he is such an authority, besides the person who wrote the description of him for the web page?

      If he had any real authoritative credence, his work would speak for itself. As a for instance, people wouldn’t need to be told that Michael Jordan is an authority on playing basketball.

      You won’t ever hear him introduced in that way because his accomplishments speak for themselves. Chances are, if something is labeled as coming from an authority, just an attempt to influence an otherwise non-interested party of the merits which would otherwise be ok to stand on their own without any help from ‘authority’.

  29. Bob says:

    I had a look on google like you.
    When I looked for the definition of Authority, one of them, strangly enough was :
    “an expert on a subject: He is an authority on baseball.”
    (baseball…., Jordans’ second career !)
    If you examine the body of Bart D. Ehrman work it is impossible to deny that he is an expert on the bible.
    His work is in no way controversial to mainstream christians and only shocks those who persist in the delusion that the bible is one book (it is a collection of books by many various authors) and that it is the infallible word of god.

  30. Mal Adapted says:

    “I do not believe there is a God.”
    “I believe there is no God.”

    Recognizing the difference between these two statements might focus the dialogue.

    • slippery slope says:

      Mal Adapted,
      First, I hope you have since learned to adapt in a better way. Second, you make a decent enough point in seperating the descriptions of what is an agnostic and what is an atheist. Now, toward what are you hoping to focus the dialogue? It seems abundantly clear that for those who call themselves “atheist” there is no hope to convince them that there is a possibility of God’s existence. To those who call themself “agnostic” there is hope to convince them of the existence of God, but they will REALLY need it to be spelled out for them so that before they put their chips in, feel secure enough that it be impossible they’re incorrect. Either way, an uphill battle, yet a battle worth fighting.

      • kabol says:

        To those who call themself “agnostic” there is hope to convince them of the existence of God, but they will REALLY need it to be spelled out for them so that before they put their chips in, feel secure enough that it be impossible they’re incorrect.

        it’s been my experience that most people who come to the point of “losing their religion” are doing just that: they’ve already had all kinds of indoctrinations and studies and church-goings.

        it’s interesting that you, slippery, seem to think that it’s the other way around – that all the poor people who are atheists started out with no knowledge of religion(s) or jesus.

        i hope you’ll forgive me for saying so, cause wouldn’t jesus?! but i would place a bet that most atheists/agnostics know more about your own religion (christianity) than you do.

  31. William Mook says:

    There is another idea that some mystics hold forth. Namely, that the natural world was created by our minds and God being omnipotent, is changeless. Whatever God wants, in this view, is already established and is forever changeless. This is what eternal means. Something that is true now and always. Not something that will be true one day in the distant future.

    In this view, time and space are illusions, created by us. Change results from us changing our minds about what we want which has no impact on what God established at all.

    A simple example that is an ideational metaphor for this concept is the Necker Cube.

    This is a 2D picture that appears to be a 3D cube. Because there’s an ambiguity where the lines cross we can ask, which face is in front? We can decide to see one face or another in front, but that has no impact whatever on the picture – only our perception of it.

    In reality, there is no face in front. But, our minds ‘see’ the cube as being a 3D wire frame structure – and can decide to assign one face in front of the other. When we change our minds the image ‘flips’ – this the mystics say is a metaphor for all that seems to happen in the cosmos!

    A changeless universe is the field in which our minds operate in perfect union with God. We choose to see elements in this changeless universe – think of a projection as in a Gram-Schmidt process establishing a basis in a random set of vectors.

    As we change our minds about what we choose to see, the universe obliges, just as the Necker cube.

    The cosmos is far more complex than a Necker cube, and there are a lot more things going on in it – much of it seems outside our control. Well, when we look at a Necker cube – we see a cube and can pick which face to see in front. We can’t choose to see a sphere for example.

    Alright, so this explains why things seem to happen beyond our control, even though we’re responsible for the things that happen. But, can we really produce a stationary image that has a lot going on in it? After all a Necker Cube is pretty simple, the universe is not.

    Check this out;

    Note that it consists of waves moving across a field of points. The ambiguity here stems from whether or not we see the ‘points’ as bowls or domes. By changing how we interpret these elements, we see spacing shift and so waves shift around as our mind changes about them.

    The common features are;

    1) seeing 3 dimensions in a 2D object;
    2) interpreting an ambiguity in the 2D source object;

    Can physical reality be like this?

    Well, there is an idea of a block universe – minkowski space – and even higher dimensional universes where everything that can happen is forever fixed – and our perception is merely a way of looking at a projection of this higher dimension onto a lower one.

    Of course, mystics who think about this sort of thing like pointing out that Young’s double slit experiment, and a variety of delayed choice experiments, like Einstein Podolsky Rosen, involve ambiguous results based on how one looks at the experiment, suggesting that reality as we know it is merely a mental projection based on how we resolve the ambiguities.

    Of course this is an over-statement, since we do not have sufficient scientific data to say how this hypothesis about human perception is true.

    So why support it?

    Because it seems so?

    Even so, this sort of hypothesis does provide a means to provide a path for scientifically consistent explanation of religious ideas. In fact, these ideas lead to a version of reality that is complementary to scientific understanding.

    Science says that you are an epiphenomenon of many interacting systems. Brought into being for a brief moment of time in an unimaginably complex and vast cosmos, only to be obliterated for ever after this moment and ultimately the cosmos itself ends after an unimaginably vast period of time.

    More specifically, cosmos evolves stars and galaxies. Stars produce metals. Metals (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen) formed the Earth. Earth over a long period of time evolved living systems. Living systems evolved bodies. Bodies evolved brains. Brains produce thoughts the way hearts produce heartbeats. Thoughts collect into a psyche. Psyche creates your personality – which then looks out on the vast uncaring cosmos and makes plans about it.

    This is the perception science gives us.

    There is another way – the way of knowing based on who and what we are.

    Science says this is either meaningless, or at best, encoded into our psyche by its structure and has no real meaning beyond that – except as it has helped us survive in the past.

    Mystics say inner knowing is the basis of reality not the mundane physical world. The ‘outer world’ is uncertain and filled with noise. They see the world from the ‘opposite end’ so to speak. The mystics see science has an upside down view of the world.

    Descartes said – I think therefore I am. He knew without proof that he existed. From this he could make conclusions about what he observed. This is an example of inner knowing.

    Perception is based on observation of external reality and is subject to change by a nearly infinite number of factors.

    Knowing is based on observation of an internal reality and is changeless.

    You know you exist for example. You also might know you love someone. These forms of knowing are quite distinct from perception.

    Mystics and sensitives know many things without observation OF THIS TYPE! Mystics who pretend to be scientists and know things that do not relate to the internal psychological world at all, are poor mystics (and scientists) indeed.

    In fact it can be said that ALL who attempt to operate in mundane reality AS scientists or engineers, are fakers and pretenders who have little to nothing to do with the very deep understanding possible to human consciousness and are confusing things – giving import to things that true mystics properly put far outside their field of knowing.

    Someone who seems to get it is Eckhart Tolle, who is a proponent for the depth of knowledge that exists inside you – well beyond the appetites we all know and simple knowings such as Descartes observation describes, an entire universe exists inside;

    From the viewpoint of science this might be considered as a way of knowing quite different than looking at the world around us for information. Here we have a source of knowing within that informs and motivates the personality, and that knowing is the basis of things and a way of being without thinking about the external world. The external world becomes a source of random noise that on occasion must be taken care of.. lol – the way most deal with unconscious processes… Those who travel regularly to the inner realm say that there is a deep seated commonality to be found there that will one day unite all of us. From a scientific point of view this is similar to saying that the structure of our brains being similar gives rise to similar processes within that produce similar knowing.

    The thing is, we are not *entirely* ‘the voice in the head’ – we do have another dimension – that the spiritual have arrogated to themselves – but could become a science of approached rightly.

    Scientists will be quick to point to the brain structure responsible for this, and that it is nothing more than an epiphenomenon of this structure as Jill Bolte speaks of it;

    However, this ‘explanation’ doesn’t change the internal experience of this ‘expanded’ ‘spiritual’ reality any more than a physiological explanation of orgasm changes our experience of it and our enjoyment of it or its place in our lives.

    Bottom line, we can view ourselves as an epiphenomenon caught in a vast universe – based on our perception of the cosmos.

    Alternatively, we can open up to the knowing inside us, and view ourselves as the unchanging source that gives meaning to all things happening ‘out there’ and allows us to feel more alive and greater being by being connected to the knowledge within.

    Why is this important?

    Mystics say, perception constantly changes. So, absolute commitment is not possible with perception. Without commitment there cannot be love. Without love, there can not be true creativity.

    On the other hand,

    Knowing is changeless, they say. With deep knowing one can commit to what is known. With commitment there can be true love without fear. All creativity comes from love and so we can express our creativity, which is the true purpose of our being alive here – the expression of our creative faculties.

    Creation is the basis of ALL life. Whether its the creation of a child, a finely crafted furnishing, clothing, artwork, meal, or song – the quality of these is a reflection of the love within.

    We all know these things to be true – yet we have degraded this knowledge since it IS knowledge that comes from within.

    The mystics tell us that we are here now, and have always been here, and will always be here. This scares non-mystics, but being dependent on a random uncaring universe scares mystics.

    What is the science behind all of this mumbo-jumbo? We are what we are – and we know what we know. Mystics say if we all open to inner knowing we will all see the same inner realities – and in that way we are already joined. This forms the basis of a scientific process every bit as valid as a science based on the mundane world – but it lacks any history that is known by science at present.

    Both will agree – what is real is – without our understanding. It will be no matter what we know or believe. It is only us who suffer if we choose to ignore what is real.

    The scientific method is a path to true knowledge, and even true knowing – and can be applied to the inner world as well as the outer. Freud knew this, and this knowledge has been ignored for too long.