Is Atheism the New Fundamentalism?

I hasten to answer: Obviously NO.

But then I realize that most people haven't got a clue what atheism actually is. No need to even mention if they know what the "New Atheism" is actually about. As such, I would be misunderstood as being "fundamentalist".

Here's the playlist of videos for the Intelligence² Debate on the topic: Is Atheism the New Fundamentalism?

I love how Richard Dawkins addresses the charges made against atheism and the recent wave of "New Atheism". Clear as usual with doses of wit and humor. This is the first time I hear Prof. Grayling in a debate like this. I'm pleasantly amused by his style

As expected, the usual misunderstandings of atheism appeared in the debate (sadly, on the proposition's side as well... though I think it is a debate tactic to misrepresent your opponent).

I will address the few common misunderstandings here (yes, they've been addressed by Prof Dawkins and Grayling as well - I'm just bored, bleh).

I will be using the term "new atheist" to refer to the recent wave of atheists. But there's nothing new about new atheism other than the fact that we're more outspoken. Richard Dawkins has dealt with the perjorative connotations it comes with in the media.

So, moving on to the first misunderstanding...

[Part 5] 6:41 - 6:46
Is it not a fundamentalist position to say "There is no god"?

*Later in the video, Charles Moore actually claims that the new atheists were muddled between "probably no god" and "definitely no god".*

Yes, it is a fundamentalist position if you claim that to an absolute certainty dogmatically.

But the thing is, no rational atheist actually hold such a position. One common characteristic amongst the new atheists is that we are usually rationalists as well. Rationally, one cannot hold the belief that "there is no god" because we cannot be absolutely certain of a negative.

So we don't believe that "there is no god". Rather we don't believe that is a god or gods because of the lack of evidence for that proposition.

[Part 7] 6:08 - 6:21
Atheism fundamentalism is not a new phenomenon. If Professor Dawkins had learnt history of Russia and China, he would know that atheism conducted programs of violence against people of faith

Bullshit. Like Prof. Dawkins retort, it's a monstrous suggestion.

Stalin and Mao did not commit their atrocities in the name of atheism (indeed they couldn't have for there is no such logical pathway). In fact, both were simply operating within their political philosophies which are actually not very different from how religions manipulate the masses.

Prof. Dawkins begins his reply to the monstrous suggestion at 8:33. Prof. Grayling adds his insightful comments in Part 8 of the video following after Prof. Dawkins.

[Part 8] 4:20 - 4:35
It (the atheist bus campaign) said "God probably does not exist." Now, I'm a bit sad, I've got a dictionary along with me. Which suggest that someone of that point of view is an agnostic. Doesn't that mean that that's an agnostic bus campaign and you're agnostic.

Yes, actually. We're agnostic atheists (specifically a weak agnostic weak atheist).

'Agnostic' is used as an adjective. The same way we're agnostic about fairies because we cannot disprove them. Similarly, we're also a-fairyists - we don't believe in fairies as well.

Get it?

Retarded Creationists

This entry will be a follow-up rebuttal to the points the creationist (Wendy Wright) in this video have made. This is going to be long - and educational. And I will recommend videos along way - they explain more with illustrations.

Richard Dawkins tries really hard to explain that there is multitudes of evidence for evolution. Given the location of the interview, he cannot, of course, show the evidence themselves - that which Wendy wants to see now although she remains unconvinced despite having previously seen them (or so she claims).

Let's start. Here's the first video in question.

1:12 - 1:31
There has been an effort within the scientific community to censor out information... against evolution that proves that evolution may not be as many scientists believe. There has been many times in which evidence that was brought forward to bolster the idea of evolution turned out to be fraudulent.

Actually, no. There is no such thing. (Shocking, eh?)

The alleged frauds and hoaxes said to cast doubt or even disprove evolution were exposed by the scientific community itself. There is no need to "censor" such information simply because they known to be false. Not to forgetting to mention that they are not evidence that the case for evolution is built on.

Here's a video by AronRa that deals with a few of the hoaxes (Haeckel's drawings, Nebraska Man, Archeoraptor, etc) that creationists frequently claim to show that evolution is a fraud:

Moving on...

1:31 - 1:52
So what we argue for is to teach the controversy. Don't censor out the facts that goes against evolution... such as the famous pig's tooth, the tooth that was claimed to be an example of a prehistoric man and turned out to be just the tooth of a pig.

The "famous pig's tooth" example (Nebraska Man) has been dealt with in the video mentioned above.

What about teaching the "controversy" then? No, we shouldn't.

We should teach only science in a science class - thus only valid scientific theories should be taught. As much as creationists would like to believe the contrary, the Theory of Evolution is demonstrably true and is accepted by the scientific community. Non-scientific or even unscientific ideas have no place in the science curriculum.

We don't teach the "controversy" between Evolution and Creationism the same way we don't teach the controversy between Heliocentrism and Geocentrism. The same way we don't teach the controversy between Reproduction by Sex and by Storks. You get the idea (I hope).

2:36 - 2:45
There is no evidence of evolution from one species to another. There's microevolution within a species but not going from one species to another.

False. This is patently false.

There are plenty of transitional forms (ie, evidence of one species evolving to another) in the fossil record. In fact, EVERY fossil found is a transitional form.

I'd recommend these two videos, by AronRa and by standup4REALscience

3:11 - 3:58
Scientists are now claiming that they are the only ones that can speak on this issue. And yet when people who look at the evidence, go to the Smithsonian Museum on Natural History and when we look for where is the evidence to show evolution from one species to another all we find are drawings, illustrations, there aren't the actual material evidence showing it. So, while there are attempts to say that only scientists can speak on this. What we have are scientists that are then creating an isolated community and saying that we're the ones... almost like... it's almost like it's a religion in which only scientists can speak or teach on it and to teach everyone else and everyone else must believe what the scientists, what particular scientists, say...

This is what I call implicit arrogance. Look at the language used here. She paints a picture in a way that it seems that it is scientists who are being unfair. She goes so far as to claim that the scientists are operating as though they were a religion.

Now here's the wake up call.

YOU are not qualified to make valid comments with regards to the theory of evolution or any other scientific theory for the matter. If you're not trained in the field, you have as much to contribute to the discussion as a car mechanic has on performing a heart surgery.

Only scientists (biologists specifically for evolution) can speak on such issues because they are the only ones who are qualified.

So why did I say that she was being implicitly arrogant? Because she thinks her complete lack of qualifications (may I add critical thinking as well) trumps the scientific consensus by people who are trained and have worked in the field. Now, that's some fat-ass arrogance there.

6:07 - 6:34
The ad hominen attacks that people who have faith in evolution use against people who don't buy into that... I think shows the lack of confidence in the evidence. If evolution had so much evidence behind it then those people in favour wouldn't to be reduced to ad hominen attacks against those who say show us the evidence show us what's lacking

Ad hominen attacks? I'm guessing that that is referring to things like:

"You retard, can't you see the freaking evidence?"
"Faith-heads cannot be convinced even if you place the evidence right in front of them."
"Oh god, you moron. I can't be bothered to explain any further."

It's not the lack of confidence that result in such comments. It is the sheer exasperation when creationists refuse to be convinced even when presented with the multitudes of evidence for evolution.

It's NOT "you moron, you better believe what I believe."
It's more like "you moron, the bloody evidence is so freaking obvious."

7:28 - 7:39
What they claim to be the evolution of a foetus in the womb based on hand drawings which has been proven to be false and yet they continue to publish it in scientific textbooks.

That's about Haeckel's drawings. It was also discussed in the first video I recommended (watch it if you haven't).

The thing with Haeckel's drawings is that even though Haeckel admitted that a few of his drawings are not based on actual observation, he's still sort of correct.

Embryos do in fact look extremely similar during the early stages of development. Some of those features displayed during development are indicative of their evolutionary history (ie, evidence for evolution).

Here's a blog entry by biologist PZ Myers on the topic of Haeckel's embryos. (Extremely long article - you've been warned)

8:18 - 10:13 [End of video]
*Babbles on about morality and science then more on the alleged lack of evidence*

How we operate society is completely separate issue from the validity of a scientific theory. It is a naturalistic fallacy to claim that because evolution says so and so therefore we should/would do so and so.

That is a very simple concept to understand. We don't have to operate our society's on Darwinian principles. If the principles are true in nature, that's that. It is a retarded claim to say that those principles are false simply because we don't like them.

Facts are facts whether you like them or not.

** Wow, the sheer amount of crap in one video... I don't think I will start on the second one...

Our Universe

Everytime when I watch a video that explores the sheer magnitude of the universe and the celestial objects within it, I get shivers down my spine. The awe. The wonder. The pride in humanity for we have gone so far in trying to understand the universe.

Here's another one with a different presentation style.

And this one was the first one that really blew me away.

Criticial Thinking

QualiaSoup never cease to amaze me with his wonderfully made videos. This time it's about critical thinking.


I have always claimed to be a naturalist except I never actually read about it in detail. All I had in mind was the general idea that it is a "worldview in which reality is such that there is nothing but the natural things, forces, and causes of the kind that the natural sciences study" and that it "rejects the objective existence of any supernatural thing, force or cause" as they "are ultimately explainable purely in terms of natural things."

And just a while ago, I just realized how close I was to naturalism. I was describing it all the long in one of my articles back in June.

I was, in effect, talking about metaphysical naturalism (ontological naturalism) and naturalized epistemology.

I am a naturalist.

Why Science?

It's a fundraiser video by the Richard Dawkins Foundation but it says much more than that.

Substance Dualism

Yet another wonderful video by QualiaSoup.

Astrological bullshit

Oh for the love of all things true, why in the world do we still have astrology columns in our newspapers and magazines?

I cringe everytime I see one, if not two, sometimes even three, freaking pages dedicated to this pseudoscience.

And DON'T tell me it is harmless crap. This harmless crap allows charlatans to make shit loads of money and enjoy fame that they otherwise are incapable of enjoying.

Not forgetting the fact that it is still false. At the very least, we're saving paper when we stop printing these lies.

Damn it, even Wikipedia has a section about the blatant bullshit that it is - need I explain myself?

The Default Position

When asked to examine a claim (more often than not, about supernatural events/entities), rationalists sometimes speak of the "default position". What about it?

Faced with any claim, the default position is disbelief until belief is warranted (by weight of sufficient evidence).

That simply means "I do not believe X exist until sufficient evidence is brought forth to demonstrate X's existence." That is very different from "I believe X do not exist." While it is tempting to equate the two statements, they are, in fact, two very different positions.

To illustrate the different positions, I'll use the court of law as an example.

Say we have a murder case and it's time for the judge to make their vote. He/she may judge that the accused is
[1] - Guilty
[2] - Not guilty

If the judge is convinced by the prosecutor that the accused is indeed the murderer, he would judge guilty. However, when the judge judges the accused to be not guilty, he/she may be holding one of two positions.

If the judge thinks that the accused is innocent, he/she judges the accused to be not guilty. If the judge thinks that the evidence is insufficient to make the case, he/she also judges the accused to be not guilty. Belief that the accused is innocent is not the same as being unconvinced to the contrary.

The same scenarios apply for claims of existence. While existence is absolute (either it exist of it does not), our state of belief can be one of the following:
[1] - I believe X exist
[2] - I believe X does not exist (Assertion)
[3] - I don't believe X exist (Negation)

One may ask, where is the fourth option that "I don't believe X does not exist". Using the court of law analogy, this option's equivalent would be "Guilty - I am not convinced of the accused's innocence."

Why is this option eliminated? Simple. It is same reason for the phrase "innocent until proven guilty". The fourth option presents the situation where it is "guilty until proven innocent". To avoid punishing an innocent mistakenly, this must be the case.

As for claims of existence, the equivalent reason has been said before - Non-existence until existence is demonstrated (That's the practical way of saying disbelief in existence of X until its existence has been demonstrated).

The elimination of the fourth option follows the same principles. If we took the position "belief existence until disproven", we would have to believe in an infinity of possible entities until they are disproven. That is not only impractical but just plain stupid and irrational.


Yes, darn it, the world is NOT going to end in 2012. I don't understand why people even entertain such a retarded idea let alone actually believing it.

Here's Neil DeGrasse Tyson on CNN answering to this ludicrous belief.

Great Stuff! added 3 new and interesting videos this past week.

This one is a presentation by Dr PZ Myers on the topic of Evolution.

The following videos are presentations by Dr Andy Thomson. The first relates to morality and the latter on the topic of terrorism. Both of which revolves around religion.

Richard Dawkins on his latest book

Here's a nice short video of an interview with Richard Dawkins on his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth.

I just did a search and found out that the book is now sold in Singapore. I am SO going to Konikuniya later to get it!

Slow but not dead

Self evidently, I have not been updating my blog lately. And I really do hope that the situation would improve. At least, slightly.

The thing is, serving National Service drains a lot away. I would either have no energy to think, no time to think or simply have nothing to think.

Following the entry, I would make it a duty to post at least once a week (since I'm only around on weekends). I may not have much to offer relative to what I have done in the past. The least I would do would be plugging Youtube videos that I found to be interesting.

Faith & Evidence

QualiaSoup is back with his latest video - Putting faith in its place. It's about the relationship between claims of existence, faith and evidence.

The video is wonderfully made - packed with information, precise and easy to understand.

The Greatest Show on Earth

Richard Dawkins' new book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, will be out soon!

I am unsure of the exact date it would be on sale in Singapore though. But I await with anticipation. This is the kind of book that I have been waiting for.

Not Just-So

Many people have the idea that Science is another just-so story or that it is another version of the truth.

Perhaps. But Science is the only "story" that is demonstrably true. And what is truth if it is not demonstrably differentiable from falsehoods.

There's a word for the "story" that Science tells - it's called Reality.

Unlike the alleged divine truths that religions claims or the doctrines that they would claim to be the absolute truth or any truth claim for the matter that any cult or pseudoscientist make, Science has more to offer. Science offers actual results.

Yes, I am referring to the practical applications of the body knowledge acquired by the Scientific Method. Aside from having evidence (acquired through observation and experimentation) to backup its claims, everytime technology works, that in itself is evidence that the scientists know what they are talking about.

Everytime an airplane takes to the skies, we demonstrate our knowledge in physics (more specifically aerodynamics, material science, etc). Everytime someone is cured of their diease, we demonstrate our grasp of the medical sciences (such as virology, immunology). The same applies to any one of the established sciences.

For goodness sake, we went to the Moon.

Now take all that into consideration. Take note of everything Science has equipped humanity with - all the technology - so much of which we now take for granted. Then contrast it with the sentiment that Science is "just another story."

It bewilders me that anyone could even come close to thinking like that.

Happy Birthday, Singapore!

Today, Singaporeans commemorate the 44th year of our nation's independence with our annual national ceremony, the National Day Parade.

And what better way to get into the spirit of the event than by listening to NDP songs!

The following player plays a playlist of NDP songs (beginning with the English theme songs in chronological order) starting off with "Home", the NDP theme song in the year 1998. Click here to view the playlist itself.

Happy National Day!
I sincerely hope that we truly are and will stay as One People, One Nation, One Singapore.

We are still monkeys

Just as we are still apes.

In the recent past, the response to a common misunderstanding of the Theory of Evolution was: "We are not apes. We evolved from a common ancestor." Now, we realize that even that answer is still incorrect.

Essentially, the problem is with semantics. In the past, the term "apes" is used to refer to primates such as chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas while arbitrarily excluding humans from the group. As we now understand the evolutionary history of our species and our cousin species, the term "apes" now includes us within the group. Thus, previously, the group "apes" was paraphyletic where it excludes us. Now, the group "apes" includes all great apes including us.

The rationale for this change in understanding and terminology can be simply understood by common ancestry. Since evidence demonstrates that we share a common ancestry with chimpanzees, at some point in history, the two lineages must have had diverged from a parent lineage. That parent lineage must have had traits common to both daughter lineages. If the parent lineage was considered to be an ape, then its descendants would still be apes by definition no matter how different they may have changed.

The same issue has occurred with the way we utilized the term "monkey". So technically, we are monkeys. The same way all birds are dinosaurs. The same way all chordates are "fish".

O' enough talk. Watch AronRa's video - he gives a much better and detailed explanation in the following video.

Youtube Videos

It's been a while since I last video-whored... so that's what I am doing for this entry.

That is my favorite video this week. Darn these videos on astronomy actually move me to tears.

Here's one that has an epic feel to it.

Another video on astronomy. This one really gives people some perspective on the size of celestial objects as well.

And if you have the time to kill, watch these ~1 hour long interviews conducted by Richard Dawkins for "The Genius of Charles Darwin" series.

That was Daniel Dennett. There are also interviews with Steven Pinker, Peter Singer and Graig Venter.

Here's one with a different presentation style - A short video by ZOMGitsCriss on a particular type of the Argument from Personal Experience.

Chain Mail: God Vs Science

I was hit by the following chain mail a long while ago and has since been wanting to post something about it on my blog. I have finally got about to doing so today.

Warning: This post is going to be a looonngg one. The contents of the chain mail are as follows:

A science professor begins his school year with a lecture to the students, “Let me explain the problem science has with religion.” The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

“You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?”

“Yes sir,” the student says.

“So you believe in God?”


“Is God good?”

“Sure! God’s good.”

“Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?”


“Are you good or evil?”

“The Bible says I’m evil.”

The professor grins knowingly. “Aha! The Bible!” He considers for a moment. “Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?”

“Yes sir, I would.”

“So you’re good…!”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn’t.”

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. “He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?”

The student remains silent.

“No, you can’t, can you?” the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

“Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?”

“Er…yes,” the student says.

“Is Satan good?”

The student doesn’t hesitate on this one. “No.”

“Then where does Satan come from?”

The student falters. “From God”

“That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything, correct?”


“So who created evil?” The professor continued, “If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.”

Again, the student has no answer. “Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?”

The student squirms on his feet. “Yes.”

“So who created them?”

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. “Who created them?” There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. “Tell me,” he continues onto another student. “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?”

The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. “Yes, professor, I do.”

The old man stops pacing. “Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?”

“No sir. I’ve never seen Him.”

“Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?”

“No, sir, I have not.”

“Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?”

“No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.”

“Yet you still believe in him?”


“According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?”

“Nothing,” the student replies. “I only have my faith.”

“Yes, faith,” the professor repeats. “And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.”

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His own. “Professor, is there such thing as heat?”

“Yes,” the professor replies. “There’s heat.”

“And is there such a thing as cold?”

“Yes, son, there’s cold too.”

“No sir, there isn’t.”

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. “You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees.”

“Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.”

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

“What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?”

“Yes,” the professor replies without hesitation. “What is night if it isn’t darkness?”

“You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the meaning we use to define the word.”

“In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?”

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. “So what point are you making, young man?”

“Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.”

The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. “Flawed? Can you explain how?”

“You are working on the premise of duality,” the student explains. “You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought.”

“It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.”

“Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?”

“If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.”

“Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?”

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

“Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?”

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.

“To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.”

The student looks around the room. “Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?” The class breaks out into laughter.

“Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelt the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.”

“So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?”

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable.

Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. “I guess you’ll have to take them on faith.”

“Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,” the student continues. “Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?”

Now uncertain, the professor responds, “Of course, there is. We see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

The professor sat down.

There are various versions of the story (this version was taken from this blog). Some are shorter. And some even claim that the student portrayed in the story was Albert Einstein - LOL.

I'll put this outfront: Only the scientifically illiterate or ill-informed masses would be impressed with this huge argument from personal incredulity. Just look at the comments in the blogs that appear after a search on Google.

A quick glance of the story would reveal several fallacies for anyone who is well-informed about Science in general. However, I shan't be taking the arguments apart personally since I found a rather nicely written "sequel" to the story in question.

This was a comment by Ash on this blog:

The Christian points towards his elderly, crumbling tutor. "Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain... felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain?"

No one appears to have done so.

The Christian shakes his head sadly. "It appears no-one here has had any sensory perception of the professor's brain whatsoever. Well, according to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says the professor has no brain."

The class is in chaos. The Christian sits... Because that is what a chair is for.

The professor, amused at the student's antics, asks the student whether he's ever read anything about science.

"No," says the student. "I only know what I've heard in church."

"That explains your ignorance about what science is, young man," says the professor. "Empirical knowledge of something does not always entail direct observation. We can observe the effects of something and know that it must exist. Electrons have not been observed, but they can create an observable trail that can be observed, so we can know they exist."

"Oh," said the Christian.

"No one has observed my heart, but we can hear it beating. We also know from empirical knowledge of people that no one can live without a heart, real or manufactured, or at least not without being also hooked up to some medical equipment. So we can know that I have a heart even though we have not seen it."

"Oh, I see. That makes sense," said the Christian student.

"Similarly, we can know that I have a brain. I wouldn't be able to talk, walk, and so on unless I had one, would I?" said the professor.

"I guess not."

"In fact, if I had no brain I couldn't do anything at all. Except maybe become a televangelist!"

The class broke up with laughter. Even the Christian laughed.

"Evolution is known to be true because of evidence," continued the professor. "It is the best explanation for the fossil record. Even prominent creationists admit that the transition from reptiles to mammals is well documented in the fossil record. A creationist debate panel, including Michael Behe and Philip Johnson, conceded this on a televised debate on PBS. It was on Buckley's "Firing Line" show. Did you see it?"

The Christian student cleared his throat and said in a low voice, "My mom won't let me watch educational TV. She thinks it will weaken my faith."

The professor shook his head sadly. "Knowledge does have a way of doing that," he said. "But in any case, evolution is also the best explanation for phenomena that have been observed."

The Christian student sputters, "You--you mean we HAVE seen it?"

"Of course. Evolution has occured within recent times, and it continues to occur. Birds and insects not native to Hawaii were introduced just a couple of centuries ago and have evolved to take better advantage of the different flora. So this evolution has taken place within recorded history. Recent history. Did you know that?"

"Uh, no."

"Viruses other diseases evolve to become resistant to medicine. This is not only observed but it is a major problem that science must confront every day. Mosquitos in the tunnels of London's underground have evolved to become separate species because of their isolation from other groups of mosquitos. But enough about evolution. That doesn't have anything to do with our issue, evil, does it?"


"What does it have to do with our issue?" asked the professor.

"Well, if you don't believe in god, then you must believe we came from apes."

The professor laughed. "Evolutionists don't believe that people came from apes or even monkeys. They believe that humans and apes had a common ancestor."

"Wow!" said the Christian. "That's not what they told me at church."

"I'm sure. They can't refute evolution so they have to spread misinformation about it. But don't you know that many Christians believe that god made humans by evolution?"

"I didn't know that."

"In fact, of the four people who debated the evolution side on PBS, on William F. Buckley's 'Firing Line,' which I just mentioned, two of them were theists. One of them is a reverend, in fact."


"Really. Many denominations of Christianity embrace evolution. Catholicism, the largest denomination of Christianity, is compatible with evolution. So evolution is not relevant here, is it?"

"I guess not."

"Even if it were true that you have to be an atheist to believe evolution, which is not the case, and even if it were the case that evolution was unsupported by evidence, which is also not the case, this would not explain evil at all, would it. It is irrelevant."

"I see that now," said the Christian. "I don't even know why I brought it up. I guess I thought it was an example of how you believe something without evidence."

"Well," said the professor. "As you can see, it is not. There is plenty of evidence for evolution. And even if there were no evidence, this has no bearing on the issue of evil. As we proceed through the philosophy course, you will see how to use your reasoning ability to separate important issues from irrelevant ones."

"I'm guess learning already," said the student, looking at the floor.

"But back to the problem of evil," said the professor. "You stated that evil is the absence of good. How does that solve the problem of evil?"

The student said lifelessly: "If evil is the absence of good, then god did not create evil." It was evident that this was something the student had learned by rote and had often repeated.

The professor shrugged his shoulders. "Okay, let's suppose for the moment that this is true. This still does not explain evil. If a tidal wave wipes out a whole town, and 100,000 people die, is that evil?"

"There is the absence of good," said the student.

"But so what? The problem is why god did not prevent the disaster. If god is all-powerful he can prevent it, and if he is all-knowing he knows that it is about to happen. So whether he created the tidal wave is not relevant. What we want to know is why he did not do anything to stop it."

The student looked confused. "But why should he prevent it? It's not his fault."

"If a human being had the power to prevent a tidal wave wiping out a town, and this person intentionally failed to stop it, we would not say that the person is good. Even if the person said, 'It's not my fault,' we would be appalled that someone could stand by and do nothing as thousands die. So if god does not prevent natural disasters, and he is able to do so, we should not say that god is good by the same reasoning. In fact, we would probably say that god is evil."

The Christian student thought for a moment. "I guess I'd have to agree."

"So redefining evil as the absence of good does nothing to solve the problem of evil," said the professor. "At best it shows that god did not create it, but this does not explain why god does not prevent it."

The Christian student shook a finger at the professor. "But that's according to our human standards. What if god has a higher morality? We can't judge him by our standards."

The professor laughed. "Then you just lost your case. If you admit that god does not fit our definition of good, then we should not call him good. Case closed."

"I don't understand," said the student, wrinkling his brow.

"If I go outside and see a vehicle with four tires, a metal body, a steering wheel, a motor and so on, and it fits the definition of a car, is it a car?" "Of course it is," said the Christian student. "That's what a car is."

"But what if someone says that on some other definition it could be considered an airplane. Does that mean it's not a car?"

"No," said the student. "It still fits the definition of a car. That's what we mean by saying that it's a car. It doesn't fit the definition of an airplane, so we shouldn't call it that."

"Exactly," said the professor. "If it fits the definition, then that's what it is. If god fits the definition of good, then he is good. If he does not, then he is not. If you admit that he does not fit our definition of good, then he is not good. It does no good to say that he could be 'good' in some other definition. If we want to know whether he is good by our definition, you have answered that question. God is not good."

"I don't believe it!" said the Christian student. "A few minutes ago I would have laughed at the suggestion that god is not good, but now I actually agree. God doesn't fit the definition of good, so he's not good."

"There you go," said the professor.

"But wait a minute," said the student. "God could still be good in some other definition even if we don't call him good. Despite what we think, god could still have his own morality that says he's good. Even if we couldn't call him good, that doesn't mean that he isn't good on some definition. He could have his own definition anyway."

"Oh, you would not want to push the view that god might be good in some other definition," said the professor.

"Why not?" "Well, if he has definitions of things that are radically different from our own, he might have a different definition of lots of other things. He might have his own definitions of such things as eternal reward, or eternal life. Your supposed eternal life in heaven might just be a year, or it could be a thousand years of torture. God could just say he has a definition of reward that includes excruciating torture as part of the definition."

"That's right!" said the Christian, jumping up. His eyes were wide open. "If god can redefine any word, then anything goes. God could send all believers to what we call hell and say that it is heaven. He could give us ten days in heaven and say that that's his definition of eternity!"

"Now you're thinking!" said the professor, pointing a finger at the student. "This is what a philosophy class is supposed to do for students."

The Christian student continued. "God could promise us eternal life and then not give it to us and say that's his definition of keeping a promise!"

"Yes, yes," said the professor.

"I can't believe I used to fall for this Christianity stuff. It's so indefensible," said the student, shaking his head. "Just a few moment's thought and all the arguments that my church gave me in Sunday school just collapse."

"So it would seem," said the professor.

"I'm going to go to my church tonight and give the pastor a piece of my mind. They never tell me about important stuff like this. And they sure didn't tell me the truth about evolution!"

The sequel doesn't end here. It continues for another two short paragraphs.

I'm deliberately dividing the ending from the rest of the sequel - I don't agree entirely with what it is about to say.

The student, who stood up as a Christian, now sat down as an atheist. And he started using his brain--because that's what it's for. The other students in the class sat there, stunned, for a few moments. They knew they had witnessed the changing of a person's life, the redirection of a young mind from falsehood and religious dogma to the honest pursuit of truth.

The students looked at each other and then began applauding. This soon gave way to cheering. The professor took a bow, laughing. When the students calmed down he continued his lecture, and class attendance was high for the rest of the semester.

The statement in italics is, in my opinion, incorrect. I seriously doubt that anyone could deconvert within 15 minutes because of a short discussion with his/her professor.

Deconverting to become an atheist is not like conversion to a particular religion. There typically isn't a epiphany where one goes "Ahha! I don't believe god exist anymore!" Chances are that deconversion is a long process beginning with doubting the validity of your current religion and probably ending with understanding your philosophy in life. The learning doesn't stop even then.

Actually, I find the ending rather counterproductive as well. Any decent believer who reads such an ending would be put off by the rather condescending implication that they would be easily deconverted by such an event.

In fact, by writing such an ending, it would be committing the same mistake as the believer who wrote the original story in the first place. A condescending remark in a chain mail just doesn't quite fly.

Any opinions?

* By the way, it was this entry by the Singapore Mormons that probably prompted my orignal interest.

** On a sidenote, wait... there are Mormons in Singapore?! Wow...

On Existence

Before going deep into the difference between belief & knowledge or discussing issues of ethics and morality, we should first and foremost be able to differentiate between existence and non-existence.

Perception is "King"
With our senses as our only interface between our minds and the external reality, we can quickly realize that perception is "king". Our ability to perceive is the ultimate limiting factor.

For this discussion, we can ignore certain questions about the ultimate nature of reality. Philosophical questions such as: "Are we living in a matrix?" or "What if we are just brains in jars?" could be said to be irrelevant. For one, the limits of our perception would prevent us from ever addressing such questions. Secondly, in either scenario, we would still have this perceived reality to deal with.

Existence and Manifestation
The single defining criteria for differentiating existence from non-existence is manifestation. When something manifest itself (and thus we can preceive that manifestation), we would say that that something exist.

Simply put, something is said to exist if we can preceive of its manifestation.

Manifestations may be directly observable or indirectly observed. For example: light is visually observable directly; solid objects can be directly detected by one or more of our senses; gravity can be observed by observing/measuring its effects on matter, etc.

Some may have objections to how existence is defined here.

For example, what about non-manifesting existent objects? Well, it is possible that such objects exist. However, what does it mean to say that such an object "exist"? Firstly, how do you determine that such an object is in existence? If it does not manifest, what criteria are you using to verify its existence? How do we differentiate non-manifesting-existent objects from non-existent-(and therefore, does not manifest) objects? My answer: there is no criteria to differentiate and thus meaningless to say that any non-manifesting entity "exist". In calling such objects "existent", we effectively castrate the word "exist".

What about manifesting objects that we have not had perception (observation) of? This one is simple. That answer would be "we don't know yet". The same criteria applies. If we had not had verifiable observation of the object in question, whatever would it mean to say that it exist?

Acquring knowledge of existence
To correctly acquire knowledge of the existence of entities/effects/etc (therefore, external reality), we must also understand the ability of our senses. We need to realize the limits of perception and how we may be able to improve/support them.

The Scientific Method comes to mind. The methodology of science eliminates error and bias by design. It holds practitioners of science to the highest evidentiary standards - requiring that they produce evidence for their hypothesis that is demonstrable and verifiable with sound and valid arguments. To date, the Scientific Method is the single most reliable method that humanity has to differentiate fact from opinion.

Through science, we have realize the limits of our senses. And has since devised various instruments to assist our senses in our pursuit for knowledge. Instruments such as telescopes, microscopes, spectrometers, spectogram, voltmeters and etc.

We also learnt of the errors our senses are prone of making and how reliable they are. And thus made efforts to rectify or avoid such errors that may arise. For example, we understand that eyewitness accounts, though helpful, is prone to various faults and thus is one of the weaker forms of evidence. Another example would be realizing the importance of collaboration in making observations.

In conclusion...
We can conclude that for factual matters concerning the state of existence, we can reliably utilize the Scientific Method (which is, in a sense, our boosted senses) to detect manifestations to establish the existence of entities or phenomenons.

Given the above discussion, questions about existence is clear cut. If we do not have evidence (that withstands the standards of science) of manifestation, we do not have the "right" to claim existence. In such cases where evidence is lacking, claiming existence is meaningless. It usually demonstrates a lack of integrity or of understanding or even both on the part of the claimant. The correct answer would be "we don't know".

The diametrical answer that claims "X does not exist" in same scenario would also be logically untenable if the claim is absolute. Such a claim in common language would be fine for most intents and purposes. Note that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

What am I?

What am I?

No I didn't suffer from memory loss. Just thinking of some of the labels applicable to me.

I am an Atheist.
I don't believe in gods, goddesses or whatever typical deities most religious folks pay deference to. There is simply no good reason to - No evidence..

I am a Naturalist.
I believe that the natural world is all there is. Tentatively, I have no reason to believe otherwise. I hold the position that all supernatural claims are either false or yet to be properly understood.

I am a Materialist.
I believe that the material world (that we perceive) is all that which we can claim to exist. Simply put, perceived manifestation is the only reliable criteria that we can use to differentiate that which exist and that which does not.

I am a Secular Humanist.
I agree with the position described by the secular humanist manifesto. As the species which literally transformed and controls the Earth, we are in a position of great responsibility. We have the responsibility to safeguard the natural world for our survival if not for greater ideals. We should have the decency to put the knowledge we acquired via the Scientific Method to bring about a better world for all.

I am a Scientific Meliorist.
I believe that we can bring about progress in the world through progress in Science. Better science would no doubt improve conditions. The last few decades is testament to this effect.

Talking about Religion in NS

Anyways, I am bounded by the law not to speak of details of the events occurring during my 2 years of enlistment. That said, I don't have much to talk about that subject anyways. Basically, it's just lots of training everyday.

And now to the main point of this entry: My first conversation with a real-life typical theist.

It was one of those ice-breaker introduction sessions and were supposed to present something interesting about ourselves apart from the usual name-school-hobby-etc crap. Being pretty much involved in learning stuff pertaining to religion & atheism and philosophy & science, that was the only thing I could and want to say.

But hey, I was in the Singapore Army. So I explained that I probably shouldn't go there and end my introduction as another boring dude. Surprisingly, the sergeant gave a green light and I went on with the topic briefly.

I said that I was an atheist.

During the introduction, several common misconceptions about non-believers surfaced.

"So you have no meaning in life/being alive?"

"Where did humans come from?"

" Where did everything come from?"

Then throw in some rather unusual and misled jokes about the atheist answer to those questions and that was pretty much what happened.

The jokes were of no ill-intent. At least, I hope not. But they do represent the misunderstanding the majority of the public have about non-believers. Heck, even the word "satanist" came up.

I explained calmly and, for the most part, it was fine.

The unusual thing was, a few days after that, a religious platoon mate wanted to talk about my atheism. Well, it wasn't really a conversation... much more like a Q&A session.

I gave short and simple answers to his queries. He didn't ask for any elaborations but just carried on asking questions that exemplified his ignorance of what atheists are.

Cue typical theist question:

"So you believe humans came from nothing?"

After my hurried answer, the conversation trailed off to a halt.

I finally had a real life experience of such a situation. And frankly, it was slightly frustrating.

Oh... the tonnes of misconceptions.

Enlisted for National Service

As of tomorrow, 12 June 2009, this blog will cease to be active and lie dormant for quite awhile.

Why? Because I have been enlisted for National Service (ie, conscription). So I will not be around to post anything. Hopefully, when I do get out of camp, I would have something of relevance to post (if I do post at all).

To the people who drop by my blog, go ahead and post on the chatbox - that's what it's for.

Threat of Hell

"If you don't accept Jesus into your heart, you will burn in hell forever."

"You will go to hell if you deny God."

"Infidels! Satan will enjoy torturing your soul!"

Sounds familiar?

The Thought that Counts
I heard the following a couple of times - once, in particular, on the Atheist Experience: "You guys are atheist and hell don't exist for you, why do you care about hell?"

So why do some atheists care about the threats of hellfire from "loving" religious folks? Well, it's the thought that counts.

I don't believe that a hell exist. Neither do I believe that there is a god to send me there. So I don't take offense at the idea that I will be in hell.

If I do take offense, it is actually at the person making the threat. Because he/she thinks that I deserve to go to hell to be tortured for all of eternity. In fact, the threat need not even be made explicit, the very idea that he/she adhere to the religion whose theology states that I deserve to go to hell is disgusting enough.

I'm with Jeff Dee on this:

Fact vs Intention
Some people doesn't seem to get the concept. So I'd thought that I should explain.

Somebody (perhaps even a friend) tells you that you "deserve to be imprisoned in a torture cell on the moon where magical pixies will rip off your toenails and then regrow them over and over again."

The fact is that there isn't a torture cell or magical pixies.

However, it doesn't negate the fact that the person, who made the threat, thinks that you deserve it. In the case of religion, the person agrees with his god that you deserve such a "punishment" for the simple act of disbelief.

How is a supreme deity just to inflict infinite punishment for finite crimes?

How can an omniscient god be considered merciful if he created his creations with the knowledge that he will be sending most of them to hell?

How can such a god even be considered benevolent when he literally created a soul filter?

Channel Discovery

Today, I found a Youtube channel that brightened my day. I haven't laughed so much in a day since... nevermind, I don't keep track of that.

It's ZOMGitsCriss.

Valid points + Frequent doses of humor = Entertainment for atheists.

Here's some of them:

And some more serious videos:


NonStampCollector has made yet another excellent video. This one is a script based on the story of Jepthah - About the child sacrifice that went through.

How very moral, Yahweh.

Wait, "Militant Secularism"?

What's that? "Militant Secularism"?

That's a phrase used in a particular article in TODAY that caught my attention. See it here.

Right at beginning, it states,

WHILE Singapore’s secularism dictates that religion should not be mixed with politics, religion is “not separated from public life and culture”, law academic Thio Li-ann asserted in Parliament yesterday.

Well, sure, of course religion is part of culture and public life.

And those who engage in public debate cannot be expected to do so independent of their religious views, the Nominated Member of Parliament stressed.

To some extent, yes, certain issues will be tied to particular religious views.

Sounds fine so far. So what is the issue with "militant secularism"?

With the senior Thio looking on in the public gallery, Prof Thio argued: “Secular fundamentalists are oppressive where they seek to mute religiously-informed convictions in public debate.”

Okay, what in the world is "secular fundamentalists"?

Consulting the dictionary for relevant defintions:

Secularism [sek-yuh-luh-riz-uhm]
1. secular spirit or tendency, esp. a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.
2. the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element.

Fundamentalism [fuhn-duh-men-tl-iz-uhm]
1. [Religious movement]

2. the beliefs held by those in this movement.
3. strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles: the fundamentalism of the extreme conservatives.

A person who has a strict adherence to the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element. I don't see a problem unless someone can point out to me what is so bad about secularism.

They do so “by demonising a view as religious in attempting to make religious faith a cause for embarrassment, or to distract citizens from the merits of an argument by discounting a speaker whose values are shaped by a religious” faith.

I would have to disagree completely with this statement.

What kind of merits are there to an argument made from religious grounds?

"I am against gays because my invisible sky daddy said so."

"As a Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/etc, I am against gays/abortion/etc."

"My holy book said so."

"My god says that infidels should die."

If the arguments sound anything like the above, in whatever shape or form, then it deserves "embrassment", scorn and ridicule.

If there are merits to an argument, it will stand on its own. Introducing "My god said so" in front of the argument is pointless if not offensive or just stupid.

Such militant secularism is “a recipe for social disharmony”, she added.

Hmmm, don't know what is militant secularism supposed to mean anyways.

In any case, I think it is reasonable to say that secularism is necessary for social harmony. If religions are allowed to inject their religious poison into law and government, it is only a matter of time before we have religious riots erupting.

So what is the issue anyways?

Videos, again

As part of my video whoring habits, here are two particular videos that caught my eye.


Woohoo! I've gotten my diploma - Officially graduated.

And damn do I miss CPTC.

"Calling Team A, this is the Control House. EBV-001 and 002 are closed on the DCS. The columns are going to flood if we cannot run P-101 and 102. Can you guys check out EBV-001 and 002 and open them?"

"Team A to Control House. The EBVs are not closed. They're open."

"Team A, this is the Control House. The EBVs are still closed on the DCS. I'd suggest that you check the Hydraulic Power Pack. It might be turned off."

"Okay, moving over...

This is Team A. We're are at the HPP. It is indeed turned off. We're opening the EBVs."

"Okay Team A. The EBVs are open on the DCS. Good job. We'll try to control the column levels. We need you guys to check out P-100..."

Damn troubleshooting that night was fun. So memorable. Even after a whole year since then, I still kinda miss the experience.

3 years in polytechnic - officially ended today.

Year 1 was kinda nice. Everything was new, not exactly sure what to expect. Frankly, I enjoyed the Chemistry subjects in Year 1 - in particular, Organic Chemistry. Got A's for those.

I was slightly disappointed with myself for Year 2 though. I slipped with regards to the engineering aspects - I've got B's. I always expect A's - it's my high standards for my performance for science subjects. Also in Year 2, 2 work safety subjects gave me B's as well. I suck at "dead-memory" type subjects... So I kinda feel screwed by them - I am so not Safety Officer material... LOL.

Well, then we have the final year. And it ROCKS. Because I had a worldview upgrade that year which I mentioned previously in "A new year begins."

That year, I managed more or less satisfactory results. A nice surprise was being awarded Distinction for CSAS4 (Communication skills subject) - I never got an A for the previous 3. This was in part thanks to my lecturer - she was indeed a great teacher who cares about her students and offers great advice & assistance.

I also got an A for my Major Project. YAY. Slightly unexpected. I think my unexpectations might actually be just due to lack of confidence on my part. I tend to second guess myself after the fact.

Oh... 3 years...

Origins Symposium

Okay, I'm convinced that The Science Network is a great resource - plenty of interesting science and thoughtful opinions of scientists.

I was watching that Origins Symposium last night and there were some really interesting bits worth watching. I'll pick three parts out that I thoroughly enjoyed watching.

Yay, Richard Dawkins. He talked about Evolution and his opinions about Abiogenesis in the following.

Lawrence Krauss gave an extremely educational and entertaining presentation on the topic of the origin of the Universe. Watch this one (Not embedded because it autoplays)!

Check it out here: Origins Symposium - Lawrence Krauss

The panel discussion on Science and Society was really fun to watch as well. Many inspiring and amusing opinions were made. And anything with Neil DeGrasse Tyson is definitely entertaining to watch.

Yay for Scientific Meliorism!

TSN: Brain, Mind and Consciousness

I was browsing through The Science Network after watching Beyond Belief 2008: Candles in the Dark when another series caught my eye. It was the 2005 Skeptic Society Annual Conference: Brain, Mind and Consciousness.

Beyond Belief 2008
was nice. There were some really interesting parts worth watching. Each part displayed on the page are around 21 minutes long so you don't have to watch a whole session at one go.

The 2005 Skeptic Society Annual Conference: Brain, Mind and Consciousness was wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed all the presentations - all chucked full with juicy information. I'd recommend watching this for anyone interested in brain function and consciousness.

For Session 1, the presentations by Christof Koch and Alison Gopnik was particularly interesting. This session spans almost 3 hours so I'd suggest that you get some popcorn and be ready to sit through it - worth it though.

In Session 2, I'd enjoyed the first presentation by Richard McNally and the third one by Susan Blackmore. This one lasts for two and a half hours.

The presentations by Paul Zak and Ursula Goodenough was my favorites in Session 3. This session is just slightly longer than the second one.

The conference was fun to watch with lots of stuff to learn. I shan't bother to get into the details - just watch them!