Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How to disprove Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection

How to Disprove Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection
Evolution does not mean God is not there, but God is not necessary-Charles Darwin

Disproving Darwin's theory should be a very simple thing to do because it is a very simple theory. However, to disprove a theory one must correctly understand it. I will start with a little background of Darwin and how he came to his theory, followed by the theory itself. I hope you enjoy.

Darwin was was a big fan of William Paley's book called Natural Theology. Paley is actually the person responsible (debateable) for the modern day Intelligent Design movement. Darwin was a devout Christian.

Because Darwin was extremely wealthy but unmotivated he went on, what turned out to be, a 5 year voyage. He liked collecting things and on this voyage he would basically get to collect junk from South America while it appeared he was actually doing something with his life. This kept his dad off of his case.
While he was on this voyage he read this book by Charles Lyell called Principles of Geology. Without getting into detail the book was about how based on observable evidence, the Earth was extremely old. This troubled Darwin because of his religious beliefs but he remained Christian. After spending time in South American they made their way to the Galapagos Islands. He noticed that the animals there were similar to the ones in South America but they were slightly different. He noticed mockingbirds in particular. They also thought the animals were extremely stupid because they are not afraid of people. That is true to this day. You can walk right up to the animals and they don't run or anything. This is because they have no predators on the islands with the exception of a hawk. Darwin wondered why the animals were similar but slightly different on these islands than on the mainland but left never to return.

Once he returned home he read a book by Thomas Malthus, an economist, called An Essay on the Principle of Population. I will try and keep this short and simple. Basically Malthus claims that resources are limited. This is a fair statement because nothing is infinite. There is only so much water, so much food, so much gold, ect. This is represented on a graph by a linear line. He also observes that populations grow exponentially as long as there is an unlimited amount of resources. A line of exponential growth is placed on the graph. His conclusion is that once the lines meet, someone has to be starving because there is not enough food. When this happens there has to be competition for resources.


A. Observation: There is potential for rapid reproduction. (For a quick example look at bacteria or the cells in the human body, for a slower example look at the population growth of the world.)

B. Observation: There are relatively constant resources and population sizes over time. (As stated above, resources are limited and any given area only has so many resources. It is observed in nature that animal populations stay relatively constant over the course of time due to the limited resources.)

C. Conclusion based on A and B: There is competition for resources to survive and reproduce.

D. Observation: There is variability in structures and behaviors. (This is obvious because no 2 people are alike unless they are identical twins but even they differ. People and animals are different.)

E. Conclusion: Natural Selection-On average the "fittest" organisms (Fitness in Biology refers to the number of offspring or the amount of genes passed on to future generations,) or those with the most beneficial structures leave the most offspring.

F. Observation: Some variability is inherited. (This is obvious because we inherit traits from our parents. Genes had not been discovered at this point so Darwin did not know what they were. His theory of "genes" is the part of his theory that was wrong but when we discovered genes, they supported his theory.)

G. Conclusion: Evolution-The genetic makeup of the population changes over time, driven by Natural Selection.

That is it…That is his entire theory. Well, a man called Alfred Wallace wrote him a letter (after his work had been sitting in the closet for 20 years) and said something like "hey I read this book by Lyell and this book by Malthus and I have a theory, tell me what you think." Wallace had come to the same conclusion as Darwin (except he never went to Galapagos.) Knowing he was going to not receive credit, he published his book On the Origin of Species.

All one must do to disprove Darwin's theory is disprove one of the points mentioned above. If you cannot disprove one of those points, you accept Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Good luck  :tu:

Breast Cancer and Birth Control: Women Must Read

This is a perfect article to point out some major things people do no realize. It has to do with scientific reasoning and statistics. Many people run with something they hear on the news. I will show you why you should not do this but rather sit down and think about it, even if you do not understand scientific reasoning. I will keep it real simple, so everyone should be able to follow.

This article is found here...
http://vitals.msnbc....study-says?lite

It is a study that ties a birth control shot to breast cancer risk. I know a lot of women worry about these two things...

Here are some of the main points of the article.

Recent use of the injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera for at least a year was associated with a doubling of young women’s breast cancer risk, a new study has found.

The injectable birth control method is the only contraceptive in the United States that contains the same progestin, or synthetic hormone, as Prempro, the postmenopausal hormone therapy pill. A landmark government study called the Women’s Health Initiative found that Prempro, a combination of estrogen and progestin, increased women’s breast cancer risk by 24 percent, while Premarin, which contains only estrogen, did not increase risk. 

Data on the relationship between Depo-Provera and breast cancer risk are limited, the researchers write. Li and his coauthors say theirs is the first large-scale U.S. study specifically designed to evaluate the relationship. Results from similar studies conducted in other countries have been mixed, they write.

Li’s team recruited 1,028 women who’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and 919 women who had not. All the women were 20 to 44 years of age and lived in the Seattle area. About 3 percent had used Depo-Provera within the last five years.

Compared to women who had never used Depo-Provera, those who had received injections within the previous five years were 2.2 times more likely to have been diagnosed with breast cancer

Age is the main risk factor for breast cancer, so while a doubling of risk might sound alarming, Li emphasizes that the actual number of breast cancer cases in women in their 20s and 30s is very low
This is a key point that they admit.

women in their 30s have a 1 in 233 chance of being diagnosed with the disease.

So let’s break it down…

To start, all of the women used in the study were from the Seattle area. This is not a good representation of women in the U.S. or the world. But that is a minor issue.
The first thing to remember is percents. 100% means “doubled.”  This 100% means 2.0 times “more likely.” The word “doubled” instantly scares people but one must consider the other numbers around it. I will show you an example using 1,000 people. Let’s say 2 out of 1,000 people get a said disease. If they saw a 100% increase in the cases, this means the number doubled. If 2 is doubled, you get 4. That being said a 100% increase or 2.0 times “more likely,” we are now up to 4 out of 1,000. That is what we call highly insignificant. There is not much of a difference between 2 and 4 out of 1,000. As the article acknowledged,  “Li emphasizes that the actual number of breast cancer cases in women in their 20s and 30s is very low.” “Breast cancer among young women is still a rare disease.” women in their 30s have a 1 in 233 chance of being diagnosed with the disease. That is 4.29 women out of 1,000. Apply this to the doubling method above.

1947 women were used in the study. It said 3% had used Depo-Provera. That is 58 women in the entire study that use it. So they are comparing 58 women to about 1900 women. That is not even a fair comparison. If they wanted a fair comparison they would have used maybe 1,500 that used DP to 1,900 that did not.

In addition to that, they never tell us how many of the 58 women were diagnosed with cancer. All they tell us is that women who used DP were 2.2 times more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer. I explained above how “2 times more likely” worked. But that is even insignificant because they do not even give us the numbers to do the math. For all we know, out of the 58 women, only 1 may have been diagnosed. If we use their average for women in their 30’s, 1 in 233 has a chance of being diagnosed. If we apply their “2.2 times more likely” math, we now have 2.2 women out of every 233 that will be diagnosed.

Basically what I am saying is this study tells us nothing about anything, like most “studies” one will see in the news. Using a few of these points can help one understand what a “study” says before flying off the wall. I wonder how many women stopped using a perfectly safe product because of this “study…” My guess would be a lot…because they do not reason through it.

And many things on TV are a flat out lie. The shake weight for example...being a former (but still cerified) personal trainer, I can tell you the thing is total BS. They claim that a 6 or 7 minute workout with the Shake Weight will burn more calories than a 20 (I think they said, may have been 30) workout with dumbells. I'll call BS. Anyone that believes that has never done a 20 minute workout with dumbells weighing more than a couple pounds. Want something way more effective than a Shake Weight to "sculpt" you arms, shoulders, and chest? Try a push-up. The push-up is free and my advice was free. Your welcome.

Religion: A Definition by Anthony Meyer

This was something typed up by a fellow Religious Studies Major and friend of mine. He is a Religious Studies major, Linguist, and Political Science major. He will be persuing a Ph.D. in Philosophy. I have always liked his work so I post this paper when ever I can. If you are interested in religion it is a good read. Hope you enjoy.

Religion : A Definition
by Anthony Meyer on Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 4:50pm
Preface

It has been an active pursuit spanning more than two centuries now to discover and analyze a theory of religion which could be used universally, with a descriptive function, to serve as a foundation for a dialog about religion and how it relates to the human experience. It has been a noble pursuit, to my eyes, for definitions are incredibly important to understand one another, and understanding is something absolutely essential when it comes to a dialog about religion. It seems that at least in America, religion is an inherently emotional topic, and people tend to make the stakes of these dialogs very high (and with good reason). Thus, finding a universal definition for the term "religion" is not only a noble task but a useful one as well.

However, despite the goal's nobility or usefulness, it has become a popular trend in the field of religious studies to concede a defeatist attitude about a universal definition of religion. Instead, the ideologies of the liberal "intellectual" have risen to power declaring that such cannot be found, and where once we valued systematic interpretation and the scientific approach we now value something wholly different: tolerance. Now I would be the last person to argue against tolerance in social practice. I agree with my forefather when he said, "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg" (Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782). That said, it is a very different thing altogether to advocate tolerance in language. Tolerance in language necessitates inclusion in definition which renders language meaningless. That is, if we are to be tolerant and open minded about how a word is defined, we must then concede that the number of things which may be included under the umbrella of that word is constantly increasing ad infinitum until the word comes to mean anything and everything, and thereby means nothing. Not only does such a linguistic tolerance do injustice to language, but it also does an injustice to its subject. As a case in point, our subject here, religion, cannot be called just anything for there are certain things which religious people themselves protest that they certainly are not; a nation or political system, for example.

Therefore, in that vein I would like to pick up where the greats of religious studies left off, and in so doing cut off the liberal intellectuals who followed them in their wrong direction. I speak in reverence, of course, of Clifford Geertz. To my eyes, his "thick" description of religion was, and remains to this day, the closest we as scholars of religion ever came to realizing the universal definition of religion. There are certain, specific things which Geertz and I disagree on, which will be assessed below. Yet, on the whole, most people, even his religious subjects, could easily find truth in his work, and I feel that in the field of religious studies that is the true pay-off: the work must be agreed upon by its subjects. Without this, the study has not been a scholarly pursuit of the "other's" perspective, but rather a twisted and perverted view of one's own perspective put on display to stroke one's own ego, a sort of "intellectual m********ion." As I have said, Geertz made great strides in this way. However, he had his shortcomings as I certainly will. Given below has no pretense of being "gospel," but I do hope that it can be seen is a next step in understanding religion and how it functions in the human experience. Along these lines, I'd like to close this introduction by quoting Newton, "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Theory

I suppose the simplest way to begin is to declare outright that I believe that Geertz was correct when he portrayed religion as a cultural system. For Geertz, lots of things create a society's culture: economics, politics, art, and not least of all religion. Thus, all of these things are cultural systems. This may seem like common sense, but believe it or not, this was a revolutionary theory at the time. Far more common was the idea that religion was not a producer of culture alongside these other things, but rather religion was a product of these other things. Marx, for example, famously claimed that religion was a product of social class struggle. Durkheim believed that religion was a product of the creation metaphors for the society as a whole. Indeed, Geertz was one of few voices in the field to finally bring religion up to its proper place.

However, Geertz makes things, to my eyes, far more complicated than need be. He gives a terribly specific, 5-point description of religion which is brilliantly argued, point by point, but really only serves to alienate his subject as he goes on. I am relatively certain that this alienation was not intentional of Geertz, but rather unavoidable given his worldview. For my part, I present here a 3-part description of religion in hopes that it will not alienate my subject or turn religion into something it is not.

A religion is:
(1) any social group of
(2) individuals who are psychologically dependent upon beliefs which are
(3) based on faith.

Each of these parts will be taken below, in Geertzian fashion, point by point.

1. Any social group: Immediately it may seem that I have offended some. Especially in America, the religious experience is characterized as a uniquely individualistic experience. The Evangelical Christian is encouraged every Sunday to have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Even more problematic is the practice of the religious ascetic who (like my namesake, Saint Antony) leaves the society to live alone in devotion to their faith. Asceticism is not an uncommon aspect of religions and certainly not a uniquely Christian one. The life cycle of every person in Hinduism holds that after one has reached a certain point they are to become "forest dwellers," living outside of the village in a state of constant study of the Vedic texts.

Given these seeming contradictions, how then can I claim that religion is a decidedly social subject? To this question, I respond in kind: How is it that we have heard of Saint Antony? If Saint Antony was a true, absolute hermit with absolutely zero contact with the outside world, how would we have heard of his exploits, however fanciful their details? The fact is, although Saint Antony certainly did live outside the boundaries of the cities, that he left and stayed way so long only made him more entrenched in the social group. All this is just "pretentious-speak" for a simple fact, Saint Antony was famous. Now, just how separate are famous people from society? Would their fame exist without a social context. Simply stated, no.

As for the Hindu "forest dwellers," I have dishonestly left out an important detail. A man or woman only becomes a forest dweller if he or she lives long enough and with enough financial security to afford to do so. If their offspring are not independent enough to provide for the family on their own, the Hindu senior simply never "retires." Given the known poverty of this country, it should be little surprise when I tell you that it is far more common the case that a man or woman should die before ever realizing that ideal final stage. If they do, however, the sheer difficulty in attaining that position makes them highly honored and respected within the society they claim to leave. That alone makes a similar case as the one for Saint Antony above, but the reality is actually even less fanciful. In theory, the person goes and inhabits the forest alone in religious devotion, but in practice they usually just study diligently at home in the village.

Risking troubled waters, I now must assess this "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." For this I raise nothing more than what many Evangelical churches claim themselves. A popular Evangelical saying states the following, "Experience God, not religion." To this saying I supplement that this "personal relationship with Jesus Christ," should anyone actually ever truly attain it, is not a religious practice but rather a belief and practice of the individual in the realm of theism. We shall see, however, and I will make it clear here now, that theism and religion are certainly not tied at the hip. You can have one without the other. We will see that more specifically in section three.

In short, a religion is not a religion without some sort of social construct, and by social construct I mean that there are understood behaviors and beliefs which are valued or discourage by the "in-group." A personal relationship with Jesus is highly valued in the Evangelical social group, which is why they make such a spectacle of the "personal testimony" of their conversion stories or struggles in their individual lives which God has helped them overcome. On the other hand, the eating of pork in Jewish social groups is a common and simple example of a behavior which would have a social cost on the perpetrator. That religion is so entrenched in the social aspect of the human experience is actually probably more a surprise to the atheist than the religious among you. After all, the ten commandments were nothing if not a record of what was considered socially valuable or stigmatized at the time they were authored, and even the atheist will concede that at least a few of these commandments are consistent with social regulations still in use today.

2. Psychologically Dependent upon Beliefs: Here it will be significant to differentiate what I mean by psychological as it is opposed to intellectual. The former, psychological, refers solely with the realm of human instinctual feeling and emotion. When we feel hunger, lust, or fear (for but a few examples), we are experiencing that instinctual psychology of the human species which requires of us to protect and preserve ourselves. When we feel joy, fulfillment, or hate (again for but a few examples), we are similarly experiencing the emotional psychology of the human experience which has been born out of our interactions with each other. The latter term, intellectual, refers solely that to the realm of ideas and beliefs. These are mental constructs and how we feel about these beliefs is considered something entirely separate from the belief itself. To this intellectual category we will return in the third part of this work.

Psychological so defined, I must now make clear what I mean by "dependent." It will be hard for me to describe this part, again, without sounding offensive. I shall try my best, however, because I personally do not feel that psychological dependence is a "bad" thing. At the very least it is understandable, and at the most it can often be commendable. I view the term "dependent" in much the same way as I'm sure most people would; unable or willing to do without (something). Here, the analogy of the drug addict is, unfortunately, the best to display this point. Only accounting for the human mind's needs, the human mind does not (at conception) require cocaine, for instance (unless the mother was using during pregnancy, which offers an interesting parallel). However, should the human eventually use cocaine and become addicted, then and only then does the human mind biologically begin to need cocaine. This is what is meant by the term "addiction," a psychological dependency on a substance.

In the case of religion, the "substance" the religious individual is addicted to differs as widely as there are religions in the world. To serve the ends of explanation, however, two will be listed here in summary. First, I must approach my main audience, the Evangelical Christian. With this subject, his mind is either unable or unwilling to do without the knowledge that there is a deity watching over them and the world. For them, this is a satisfying and easing psychological view. When so believed, the world has a certain order (as is so important to Geertz) that makes the mysterious explainable, the tragic endurable, and moral ambivalence understandable. Should this view be undermined (as we will discuss in the final section), we would expect the religious man to respond emotionally and instinctively. And indeed, as any militant atheist would tell you, the Christian in debate often becomes very heated indeed. What the militant atheist would be less inclined to tell you is just how heated he becomes for similar reasons (His worldview too, in debate with a Christian, is being severely undermined. To this we shall return).

As for my second subject, I will take the curious case of the devout Buddhist. Buddhism, as Gautama taught it, is a strictly atheistic and anatta religion. Atheism can be summarized briefly as the ideological position that characteristically lacks a belief in a deity. Anatta is defined similarly as the ideological position which lacks a belief in the soul. Curious, then, is it that Buddhism should refer to itself without reservation as a religion. However, this is less curious when we recognize that religion and theism are not tied to the hip, to which we have already referred. Here, a Buddhist replaces the belief in a god or a soul with other equally psychologically satisfying (for him) beliefs; Dukkha (suffering) and one's release from Dukkha by means of Nirvana. I should like to make it perfectly clear here that I am absolutely NOT saying that Dukkha and Nirvana are the Buddhist's gods, but merely that they are serving the same psychological function as God does to the Christian. It is important to notice that same function does not dictate same thing. I can use the heel of my boot to drive a nail into a wall, but this does not make my boot a hammer. Just as much as we are making important the definition of religion as distinctive from other cultural systems, it is as important to keep distinct differing beliefs and terms, especially in such a controversial subject.

Returning to the subject of the Buddhist, the ideology of Dukkha as the simple reality of the universe and Nirvana as an ultimate process of salvation from that suffering can, thus, obviously be seen as serving the same satisfying and easing psychological effect as the Christian God. It is no wonder, then, that the Buddha is always depicted with a serene look upon his face. The suffering of the world is of no more concern for him; he no longer suffers from it nor adds to it.

3. Based on Faith: This is the intellectual aspect of religion. Already I will have perhaps made the militant atheist angry for, to the stereotypical atheist, to declare anything that religion does as "intellectual" implies that religion is not, as he believes, "absolute nonsense." And, indeed, this is precisely the implication I hope the reader to draw. Religion is neither irrational, nor illogical, nor unintelligent. To these conclusions we will arrive shortly. For now, allow me to, yet again, properly define my terms.

Faith, as I see it, is abductive reasoning without the requirement of deductive or inductive reasoning. Yes, I realize how unhelpful it is to define a term with even more confusing ones. However, I hope to make these terms clear, and in so doing, I believe they will be very helpful in forming my argument. The former term, abductive reasoning, is best depicted, to my eyes, by the following example from Wikipedia, "For example, the lawn is wet. But if it rained last night, then it would be unsurprising that the lawn is wet. Therefore, by abductive reasoning, it rained last night." With this example there are a great many other possible explanations for why the grass would be wet (some neighbor kids had a super-soaker fight, you accidentally left the sprinkler on all night, etc.). However, to come to any more narrowed (deduced) set of options necessarily requires abductive reason's deductive counterpart.

"Deductive arguments are attempts to show that a conclusion necessarily follows from a set of premises or hypotheses. A deductive argument is valid if the conclusion does follow necessarily from the premises, i.e., if the conclusion must be true provided that the premises are true. A deductive argument is sound if it is valid and its premises are true" (Wikipedia). For example, all items with a density less than 1 g/ml will float in water, a ping pong ball has a density less than 1 g/ml, therefore a ping pong ball must float in water. Inductive reasoning is a bit like deductive reasoning except it begins with a premise which is, at the very least, generally accepted as fact (although this is never stated without a doubt), and the conclusion usually reflects the premise in absolute terms. For example, all the swans we have ever seen have been white, therefore all swans are white. While abductive reasoning has a known ending and the beginning must be presumed, inductive reasoning has a known beginning and a presumed ending. Therefore, if either is to be logically complete, deductive reasoning, which focuses on making valid steps from a premise (beginning) to a conclusion (ending), must bridge their gaps.

In short, faith is satisfied by a simple theory, belief, or ideology as long as it could possibly have produced the reality before them. No other evidence or system of logic need be applied or even taken into account. Defined this way, when I say that an individual's beliefs are based upon faith, I am in fact saying that his beliefs need only be justified using abductive reasoning. To the mind of the religious man, this is more than enough proof and once this perspective "lens" has been established in an individual anything and everything can be seen as further proof of that unknown premise of abductive reasoning. This is precisely what Geertz is describing when he speaks of the "religious perspective" as: "If one is to know, he must first believe." However, I disagree with Geertz in his view that the realm of common-sense and practical act are the paramount human experience, which implies that religion is always secondary. There is, in my experience, a very real power in religion to shape the "lens" of man so that the real world is instead seen as a manifestation of the divine all the time. Geertz, of course, knows the power of religion to change an individual's view of the real world as divine, but he appears to insist that even the most religious of men do not view the world as religious even a majority of the time. From what I have seen of religions, it seems to me that this dominant religious perspective is absolutely attainable and was probably the norm in the Ancient Near East.

As before, I am now again faced with the very real possibility that I have offended the religious among you. If I may respectfully retort, how is it that the religious man would typically define faith? Would it be inaccurate to assume a definition somewhere along the lines of what Kahlil Gibran says, "Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof."? Here, faith is considered beyond the petty burden of proof. Faith is considered superior, and indeed, for the religious man faith is absolutely superior to proof. In so saying, then, is it really inaccurate to define faith as this dispensation of proof? For, in reality, this is all that my definition claims; faith is above proof and human reasoning. It is, by definition, something beyond the comprehension of man.

To illustrate this point specifically, let us take up the Buddhist again. The ideology of the Buddha requires an unquestioned belief in the concepts of Dukkha, Nirvana, and yes even reincarnation (despite the lack of a soul to be transported from one body to the next). As far as deductive or inductive reasoning is concerned, neither seems to have been employed, not even by Gautama himself. Instead, the authority of this knowledge is based upon a rather mystical revelation under a fig tree after an unnatural time to have been without food or water. To the Buddhist, this knowledge and "myth" is more than enough to substantiate his whole worldview. In the same way, if I may take up respectfully the case of the Christian, his ideology requires the unquestioned belief in a god which can neither hear nor see nor eat nor smell; nor can he be heard, nor seen, nor eaten, nor smelled. Clearly, deductive and inductive reasoning are not of great concern to either of these men.

It is interesting, then, that the religious man should be found to use deductive and inductive reasoning while in debate with an atheist or other skeptic. This, however, should not be seen as the religious man's attempt to view his own religion or beliefs under these terms. After all, he has had no need to do so prior to this conflict. On the contrary, the religious man is only attempting to twist his opponent's logic against him. Yet, he is inherently not very talented at this skill. This is not a reflection of the religious individual's incompetency. By no means! In my experience, intelligent men are religious and non-religious alike. Along with the religious man's lack of skill in employing deductive and inductive reasoning runs the atheist's equal and parallel handicap of being unable to use only abductive reasoning. In other words, what is at play here is not a reflection of a lack of intellect, but rather a difference of logic systems, where each is seen by the adherent as the more valid. It is precisely this point which brings us to why the atheist and skeptic often become so heated in debates. Since the atheist worldview is shaped by logic and reason, the religious individual himself is the very thing which undermines that worldview. And, in accord with the religious reaction of emotion, the atheist, for he too is only human, becomes just as angry and hot as his opponent.

To close this section, I beg the pardon of the Christian reader, for an atheist is about to quote scripture. I do so only to make a point and to show that what I have said is specifically not earth shattering and apparently not all that new. For, if Jesus could have said it nearly 2,000 years ago, it must be an old and obvious idea indeed. In Mathew 11:25 states, "At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants." Clearly faith is not only something different from the wisdom and intelligence of mere men, but something very close to God.

Conclusion

In proper form, I shall end as I began. Religion is a cultural system. From this it should be implicit that, to my eyes, a cultural system requires three aspects: (1) a social, (2) a psychological, and (3) an intellectual. In this way, religion is not so unique from, say a Free Market Capitalist society. In this example, a Free Market Capitalist society is (1) a social group of (2) psychologically consumerist individuals whose beliefs are (3) based on self-interest. Yet, I mention this example not to show that, as Durkheim so profanely does, that religion is merely a representation of something else. On the contrary, I raise this example to show just how different and unique religion is even within its category of "cultural system."

In so many ways, religion proves to be atheism's superior. Never have beautiful works of art been made in the name of atheism. Never have nations been moved to peace and to war in the name of agnosticism. Religion is so much more than atheism, for atheism is only an ideology. Atheism itself makes no claim in a social system; for this most atheists resort to Humanism (myself included). Similarly, atheism alone stakes no claim on how one psychologically reacts to the ideology. In my experience, many people have resorted to an equally many different psychological dispositions. It seems very common, in the U.S. anyway, that newly converted atheists tend to quickly turn to the psychologically dependent system of social liberalism. For them, it seems that this "loving, tender, tolerant" perspective is a quick "Indiana Jones" switch for the dependence once enjoyed under religion. I for one made this conversion at first, as well. After a certain point, however, with the aid of my twin brother, I was shown that switching from religion to social liberalism is a bit like quitting smoking by taking up heroin. In other words, the cure for psychological dependency is not a different addiction, but rather psychological independence. This certainly seems to be what has occurred in Richard Dawkins and explains that unabashed ego of his (a reason to both love him and hate him).

Finally, I hope I have made clear the profound respect I have for religion, both the subject and the cultural system. Often I stand in awe of it; not with the open mouth of sarcastic piety, but with the open eyes of genuine reverence. That we differ intellectually should not be grounds enough for hatred between us. This message is for both my atheist and religious readers. So often we only learn about each other so as to "know thy enemy." In so doing, I hope I can say that I have made a friend of religion, and it has never done me any wrong. For the ills that religion does play on the world, I hope we, as atheists, can try to remember that we no more deserve to be "holier than thou" than the priests. After all, we are all only humans.

Your brother in death,

Anthony


Thank You

I should like to thank the inspirations of the preceding work. Certainly Dawkins and of course Geertz are among them. For the others, I wish I had the time, memory, and space to right them all. The three men which rise above all the others as the foundation of my "lens" with which I view the world are as follows in the order in which I demand others to read their works: "The Predictioneer's Game" by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, "How to Read the Bible" by Marc Zvi Brettler, and "The Red Queen" by Matt Ridley. Your works have changed my life over and over again, and I cannot possibly display the sheer burden of gratitude I bear for you three brilliant men. Next, I must thank Bernard Levinson for being my first true inspiration into the field of religious studies and for seeing something more in me than I saw in myself. I hope to be half the man you are one day. Of course, I would be remiss for not thanking my twin brother Brian. You have been the foil to which I compare myself our whole life. Always the reasonable one, I would not be what I am today had you not had a hand in shaping it. Finally, I feel I must thank (and apologize to) the victims of the innumerable religious debates with which I had instigated. It should be obvious that this work was "born out of fire." Know now that my "blades have been made into plowshares." To the many others who have inspired me, I cannot thank you enough. I hope that being tagged in this note will show how much you mean to me. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH.

The Scholarly Study of Religion

It has once again come to my attention that people do not understand the scholarly study of religion and what exactly religious scholars do. We are not theologians...

Theology-Theo (God) ology (the study of.)I do not study God. I do not study any god. I study religion. I am agnostic, not atheist. I am not anti-religion, I enjoy it. I try to look at religion with an unbiased view, as much as it may hurt...that is what scholars do.

Here is a previous blog of mine about what the study of religion is all about...

My main major is Religious Studies and many people jump to conclusions. The most common conclusion is that I am going to become a priest or a pastor or something along those lines. That is not correct. Many here do not jump to that conclusion but do not understand what exactly it is that I do. To clear it up and introduce the study of religion I will post something I typed up a while back. I hope this clears up any questions you may have.

The Study of Religion

First, I will get into Religious Studies program. At the University of Minnesota we have 2 tracks in the Religious Studies program. Here is some info about track 1…

Description of the Track I Major
This track is ideal if you wish to study religion broadly or as a social and cultural force.
• It emphasizes the methodologies of the humanities, social sciences, and arts.
• It addresses questions of expression, psychology, theology or religious thought, as well as public and social policy and the political contexts and ramifications of religion.

This track provides a solid foundation for careers serving diverse communities in public arenas, as well as graduate study in the arts, humanities, or social sciences, or in theological or seminary programs.

For more info on it, you can check out the full link.
http://www.religiousstudies.umn.edu/ugrad/track1.html

Here is track 2…

Description of the Track II Major
This track is ideal if you seek in-depth knowledge of a particular religious tradition (for example, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, American Indian, or Hmong).
It emphasizes learning about the selected tradition through study of its untranslated foundational texts.

For this track, you must complete preparatory work through the 4th semester (or the equivalent) of a language appropriate to the specific religious tradition and its sources.

This track provides a solid foundation for careers serving diverse communities in public arenas, as well as graduate study in the arts, humanities, or social sciences, or in theological or seminary programs.

Track II is particularly recommended if you are interested in such topics as the (1) the advanced study of the Bible or the Qur’an both in their origins and their later interpretations, (2) the history of Judaism, Islam, or Christianity before the modern period, or (3) the study of the traditions and texts of the religions of South or East Asia, whether in their countries of origin or in diaspora.

Sample subject and language pairings include but are not limited to:
• Judaism: Hebrew (for scriptural or historical area of concentration), German or Yiddish (e.g., for Jewish literature or 20th-century)
• Islam: Arabic, Turkish
• Christianity: Greek or Latin (for scriptural or medieval concentration), German or Spanish (for relevant geographical/cultural themes)
• Buddhism: Chinese or Japanese
• Hinduism: Sanskrit or Hindi
• American Indian religions: Ojibwe or Dakota
http://www.religiousstudies.umn.edu/ugrad/track2.html

In both tracks we are required to take this course. Just reading the description of this course will answer many of the questions people may have about the study of Religion. In my opinion, this is the single most important course in the entire program, which is probably why it is a requirement.

RELS 3001 – Theory and Method in the Study of Religion: Critical Approaches to the Study of Religion-
Description: While even a quick glance at any newspaper these days impresses upon us the importance of religion, just how we are to understand and/or learn about religion, given the vast array of ideas, practices, institutions, and communities that lay claim to the category, is anything but straightforward. Scholars from many disciplines study religion, adding another layer of diversity?not to say confusion?to the question of how one might go about learning about religion. This course attempts to sort through the many theories about religion and methods for studying it that have developed over the past century. We will first examine several theories of religion (what ?religion? is and entails and how it works) from such writers as Sigmund Freud, Max Weber, Rudolph Otto, Thomas Berger, Jonathan Z. Smith, Talal Asad, Tomoko Masuzawa, and others. Then, we will examine a number of different approaches to or methods for studying it, examining some recent monographs using specific methods to explore topics such as Catholic devotional practices (ethnographic), the Gnostic gospels (historical-textual), American spirituality (sociological), and Hindu nationalism (historical, literary deconstruction).

After that description there is not much I have to say. The first thing we attempt to do define religion because as someone said “how did you study religion if there is no universal definition?” This is very difficult and obviously varies a lot. In the books Eight Theories of Religion and Introducing Religion by Daniel L. Pals, we see that there are many Religion theorists (some are listed in the description) that have very different definitions.

We also try to figure out WHY someone believes what they do and HOW religious ideas came about. Obviously this varies depending on the definition.

“I have heard on numerous occasions(from someone who claims to be religious) that "If you except Jesus/Wotan/Allah/etc you'll get your evidence" Should I be telling them 'Oh well you can't define religion so it doesn't matter what you say'?”

The problem with this statement is that you are describing how “religious” people, particularly monotheists, get their proof. This does not address many things which can be considered religion. This is specific to modern, popular religions. It does not address HOW these ideas first came about and WHY people believe them. When I say WHY, I am talking about the origins of religion. Is it sociological, psychological, biological, something divine, or something we do not even understand. WHY does someone believe “if you accept Jesus you’ll get your evidence?” Is it their method of thinking and reasoning different? Methods of reasoning are clearly different between Scientist and “Religious,” but at the same time I scientist can be “religious.” HOW does this happen? How can someone that studies things with empiricism flat out ignore that and believe something based on faith alone? One would think a scientist could not have “blind faith,” but they do. Do you see the complexity of these questions?”

Many Christians and others may not agree with a lot of the stuff I have said and that brings me to the final point I want to make. The study of religion is to be done separate of one’s beliefs. Religion cannot be properly studied if people bring their own views in. Yes, people do bring their own views in, resulting in different definitions, but the goal is to try and be as unbiased as possible. If you consider someone else’s views pointless and stupid, you will never understand them. Religious Studies scholars are made up of all types of people, from Atheists to Christians. This shows that one can put their own views aside and study religion.

I hope this explains the study of religion.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bill Maher Is Wrong About Religion

Bill Maher Is Wrong About Religion
Many people would not flinch at the suggestion that Bill Maher is wrong, but I am not one of those people. I think Bill (I call him Bill because I think of him as a friend, though I have never met him) is a brilliant guy and I agree with him 90 percent of the time. He typically does his research and gets his facts, but when it comes to religion, he is very bias. He is like Richard Dawkins in the way he ignores experts and makes unscientific claims. He is a hypocrite on the matter of religion. I own his movie Religulous, and enjoy it, for the most part, but he is untruthful about one thing…He keeps saying “I don’t know!” For someone that doesn’t know, one way or another, he makes very bold claims about believers.
This blog was inspired by his debate on Real Time with Brian Levin. Here is a bit about Brian Levin…

Brian Levin

·         Brian Levin , J.D.
·         Professor
·         J.D. - Stanford University
·         Phone: (909)537-7711
·         E-mail: blevin8@aol.com
Criminologist and civil rights attorney Brian Levin is a professor of criminal justice and Director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino where he specializes in analysis of hate crime, terrorism and legal issues.
Previously, Professor Levin served as Associate Director-Legal Affairs of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Klanwatch/Militia Task Force in Montgomery, Alabama; Legal Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnic and Racial Violence in Newport Beach, Ca. and as a corporate litigator for the law firm of Irell & Manella. He was also a New York City Police Officer in the Harlem and Washington Heights sections of Manhattan during the crack wars of the 1980s.
Prof. Levin began his academic career as an associate professor at Stockton College in New Jersey in 1996. Mr. Levin is a graduate of Stanford Law School, where he was awarded the Block Civil Liberties Award for his work on hate crime. He is a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States and the state of California.
He is the author or co-author and editor of books, scholarly articles, training manuals and studies on extremism and hate crime. He was also the author of briefs in the Supreme Court case of Wisconsin v. Mitchell in 1992-3, where he analyzed criminological data establishing hate crime's severity. His book, the Limits of Dissent is about the Constitution and domestic terrorism. His research has been cited by The California Court of Appeals and in numerous scholarly journals and major law reviews.
Prof. Levin has testified before both houses of Congress, the US Commission on Civil Rights and various state legislatures on hate and terrorism. He has presented instruction and/or advised the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Justice, Treasury Dept., U.S. Customs, American Bar Association, American Prosecutor's Research Institute, National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council, National Bar Association, National College of District Attorneys, National District Attorneys Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, International Association of Chiefs of Police and numerous police departments, colleges, universities and human rights organizations.
Mr. Levin is a court certified expert on extremism in the United States and England. He has appeared on every network and cable television evening news broadcast and various network magazine shows on the subjects of extremism, civil rights and criminal law. He has also appeared in every major American newspaper, newsmagazine and wire service as well as four other continents.
In 2003, Professor Levin was selected to research terrorism for both a Hispanic Serving Institution fellowship from the United States Department of Agriculture and as a Visiting Scholar with the FBI Academy's Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia. Professor Levin was named Outstanding Faculty member by the College of Extended Learning and wa co-recipient of the University's Diversity Award in 2005. In 2005 Professor Levin was invited by the Metropolitan Police to make a presentation on hate crime in London and by the National Academies to make a presentation on terrorism at an international conference in Helsinki.



The thing that really got me was when Bill said his facts are simply wrong. Being a Religious Studies scholar, I tend to side with Mr. Levin. I also find it ironic that Bill full heartedly accepts scholars on climate change, but not on religion. Why do you assume you know more Bill?
Following, I will respond to the key points of their discussion…
Bill claims that not all religion is a like. Nothing is ever perfectly analogous, but for the most part, I find religion very similar. Islam is no different than Christianity. What Bill forgets is that culture and society play a role. The topic of religion is complex and not black and white, as Bill assumes. Culture and society are often the driving forces and cannot be separated from religion. This is especially true with Islam. Their culture and religion is blended together and cannot be separated. Bill totally ignores the cultural aspect and simply focuses on the religion, which ignores the bigger picture.
Bill admits there are good Muslims but suggests that Mr. Levin is wrong about his facts. No, Levin is perfectly correct…Muslim extremists are a fringe group. There are 1.4 Billion Muslims in the world and the vast majority are good people just trying to live a good life. Muslims will admit that 10% are the fundamentalist Muslims that follow the Qu’ran to a T. They are the terrorists and want to see non-believers killed. Whether they act on this is another story. What we are ignoring is the simple math…These Muslims are only 10%, a minority…but 10% of 1.4 Billion people is 140 million, a very significant group. The point is that there are a lot of these fundamentalists Muslims, that are the extremists that Bill speaks of, but they are a minority and do not represent Islam as a whole. The vast majority of Muslims, like Christians, are good people.
Bill claims that this religion (Islam) behaves differently. He admits that at other points in history, Christianity was the problem, but now, Islam is the problem. No, religion is religion. What is different is the other major driving factor…culture.
As is mentioned, religion or ideology can be used as an excuse but is not a bad thing in itself. (To the fact that religion and ideology itself is not a bad thing, Bill responded with “really? Interesting…”) The real issues dates back to the Crusades, but more strongly relates to Imperialism. The West took advantage of the Muslim world, deprived them of resources and wealth, and placed boarders that were meant to cause conflict. This is the root of their dislike for the West. It is a political and economic issue that is disguised as religion. Religion is the excuse, not the cause. Politics and economics are the cause of the clash…though in Muslim countries; law, culture, and religion cannot be totally separated. They are not like the United States.
When Mr. Levin is discussing reasons that people do crazy things, he does mention religion and ideology, in which Bill responds “so you admit religion is in there?” That statement proves that Bill thinks religion is a bad thing.  
What Bill does not realize is that Religion provides a lot of good things. Religion contains things such as Karma, the Golden Rule, the teachings of Buddha, the teachings of Jesus, the teachings of Gandhi, Submission, Peace, and Charity. Churches are the largest community contributor.  No one donated more money to hurricane Katrina than Churches did. Religion also gives people the strength to live and to live a good life. It gives them hope and something to look forward to. Even if you disagree, you are wrong to say it does not make a difference.
Even groups here in the US, that many people would consider crazy, provide great lifestyles. Obviously there are crazies like the FLDS, but most Mormons live a very happy and healthy life that has no negative side effects. We also have Jehovah’s Witnesses’ come to the door on a regular basis. They are friendly, non-pushy, and provide us with a lot of reading material. Their intentions are good, not malicious.
The fact is, Bill…Religion does provide more good than harm. You attacked the comparison of Martin Luther King Jr. to terrorists, but the fact of the matter is that they both use(d) religion seriously and make a difference because of it. Religion can be used for good or bad. You, like Richard Dawkins, see it as a disease. I tend to see it as an evolutionary cause. I think it did, and still does, hold a purpose in human existence, and will never disappear.
Bill, for some reason, ignores the scholarship done on religion and ignores the scientific benefits. I love you Bill…but you are wrong on religion. You are not an Islamaphobe, you are a religionaphobe…hopefully you will grow some more and overcome this…

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Philosophical Flaws of Libertarians

Many people have said I sound like a Libertarian. One of the people I respect most in this world is Anthony Meyer, and he is a Libertarian. I always take his views into deep consideration and reevaluate mine. Bill Maher has also called himself a Libertarian, which I find very odd, because he appears to be the picture perfect Liberal. I would love to be a Libertarian and their views sound appealing…unfortunately, I have found major philosophical flaws that have yet to be addressed. A Twitter discussion with @mantis8585 has inspired me to do this blog. He asked me, what are the philosophical flaws? I was more than happy to explain myself. I will use our discussion to show my views and the reaction I received.
@mantis8585
To start, I am not a socialist. Socialism fails because of human nature...if you do not give people an incentive to work hard, they won't. I consider myself a Capitalist. I am a social democrat. I consider it capitalism but some consider it a hybrid system. The philosopher Peter Singer best expresses my view on capitalism...
"Capitalism is very far from a perfect system, but so far we have yet to find anything that clearly does a better job of meeting human needs than a regulated capitalist economy coupled with a welfare and health care system that meets the basic needs of those who do not thrive in the capitalist economy."-Peter Singer
That being said, I disagree with some major philosophical issues. I agree on the social aspect for the most part. I agree in freedom and liberty. I also find the non-aggression principle appealing, for the most part (taxes and participation in social programs are my disagreement.) The problem is that I find Free Market Capitalism to be a contradiction of these values. You can get my full view on this in one of my blogs...
http://athans-athansblog.blogspot.com/2012/12/greed-and-selfishness-contradiction-of.html
Basically I think Free Market Capitalism creates the perfect environment to eliminate the one thing it strives to create...competition. But here are my philosophical issues...
1. Keeping the government out of the economy. This is simply not possible. As long as there are elected officials you cannot ensure that they do not work or a business or are not on their payroll. No matter how small the unit of government people will give into greed and take bribes and pass laws to favor one over the other. One of the good things about Libertarianism is that they do recognize that greed is human nature, yet I think they underestimate it. Basically I find the idea of keeping the 2 separate not even plausible. I do not find it philosophically plausible and history has shown that government has always been involved...all the way back to the cotton industry.
2. A level playing field. It is assumed that everyone is on a level playing field and that hard work translates into success. There are exceptions, there are always exceptions...but this is mostly utterly false, for two reasons. To start, one needs capital to make capital. One needs money to start up a business. Donald Trump was given a hotel chain by his father...look at the Walton kids...they started with hundreds of millions of dollars. If I gave you 200 million dollars, I would bet you could turn it into 1 billion...unless you are a moron...When accumulation of wealth and inheritance gets involved, there is no longer a level playing field. There are also people that were born into a bad situation. When it is legal to lynch a person because of their race, they are at a disadvantage. A less extreme case is discrimination based on race or sex. If someone is not hired or approved of something based on race, they are at a severe disadvantage. There is also an issue of poorer people being able to afford to go to college to get a good job. Not everyone can get a co-signer for a loan or be approved for a loan. America is the best case scenario. In many countries people work in almost slave like conditions. Their pay is so poor they cannot survive, let alone save up money and get out of the situation. They are stuck in poverty. Their kids will be born into it and do the same thing they are doing. This leads to the next issue...
3. Winners and losers. In Capitalism, as we all know, there are winners and there are losers. As I stated above, many of these losers are losers for no fault of their own...BUT...if they were, let's say because they are lazy or do not have any skills or have a mental disability, what do we do with them? Do we let them die in the streets? I know here you will say that you are altruistic, and you are not heartless...you will say that the community and charities will take care of them. Once again, I find this idea flawed. We already know people are greedy and charities are often corrupt, or at the very least, they are being skimmed from. Charities are just another way people can be scammed out of money...and that is assuming that people even have enough money to donate. What if they do not make a livable wage? What if they cannot afford to donate? What if they simply chose not to? It is in no one's rational self interest to give away money...I mean how do you think they became wealthy? Certainly by giving away money...I do not find the Libertarian's model sufficient to care for those that do not excel in the system and that does not even bring in the loser countries (the Global South.)
I guess another note is the environment. An unregulated capitalistic system destroys the environment and people’s lives. The Dust Bowl is an example of this, as is climate change, ocean acidification, and contaminated water by fracking. I do not see how flammable drinking water has anything to do with freedom or liberty...
I suppose another issue is the "Libertarian police." Libertarians seem to oppose government, but obviously they have some system set up to protect the non-aggression principle...You would call them the small uncorruptible government. I call it wishful thinking. You assume they could not be corrupted but I find that highly unlikely and if they were, I seriously doubt that they would have the power to stand up to a large business, such as Wal-Mart.
It is all a cute idea...I like the principles behind it...but I find it a flawed system for humans...


Here were some of the arguments I received…
All from @mantis8585
Well 1st off, you dislike free enterprise capitalism because you believe it creates monopolies? ....
Yet you support a monopoly on education, land, law, and violence? (Government)
I've read very compelling articles that make stong cases that governments don't stop monopolies but create them.
It's easy to see that corporations lobby the the gov't to get regulations, that harm free enterprise and give them advantages.
#2 you assume that gov't makes the playing field level, yet while holding the monopoly on law and land, they keep us slaves...
We have the "right to life" yet open land is fenced off, protected by the monopoly of violence, that keeps people...
Leaves people without land or capital the "right to support life". Destined to pay rent to landlords and gov't for ever.
#3 I find it terribly amusing that you believe charities can be corrupt,( they can) but gov't can't?
If the monopoly on unused land was removed, people with skin in the game wouldn't poison themselves.
Not to mention, that you can sue for personal damages, and reputations would matter in a forceless society.

Here was my response to those criticisms…
.@mantis8585 All of your points are straw men arguments. None of them address my main point. My main point is "How do you keep the government out of the economy." I propose that it is impossible. A true Free Market system has NEVER existed. The government has been involved since the beginning. Look up the cotton trade in England and the origin of the police force...I know the government is corrupt...I never said it was not. Everything is, or could become corrupt, because that is human nature. However, there is 1 big difference between our government and a very large business...With the exception of the Supreme Court, our government is elected. Theoretically, we could get rid of every member of our government if we wanted to. If we thought they were corrupt, we could get rid of every senator, representative, and the President. We CHOOSE not to. How do you get rid of a CEO or business owner? You wait for them to die...
Sure the government can create monopolies...they do this through playing favorites...we call this crony capitalism. The problem is how do you eliminate this? If you cannot answer my first point, you cannot answer this point. Those that favor certain businesses WILL get into the government (or pay off officials) to gain an advantage. But Monopolies can also happen without government involvement. They do this with great amounts of capital and also form cartels, syndicates, and trusts. The idea of competition falls apart when businesses decide to work together or compromise. They can agree to divide the area up. This is simple history. It has happened. The principle ideas of Free Market have never existed.
I am not saying our government is perfect, far from it. But I do see a need for a government. You seem to favor anarchy...once again...When in history does we see anarchy? When in history do we see governments? We ALWAYS see governments, whether they are tribal or monarchies. Some tiny government that does not hold any type of power will fail to maintain itself and will be taken over by a more powerful entity. That is history, that is reality, that is the human race...No one argues with me when I point out that history has shown socialism to be a failure, but when I point out that the same issues with capitalism, everyone fights back. I am not claiming to have the answer, because I don't.  The theoretical government I would propose that I think would solve all the problems is not realistic...so I don't push my view or even talk about it...that is the difference between Libertarians and I...I know my idea is unrealistic...
As I said before...I agree with Peter Singer's view...
"Capitalism is very far from a perfect system, but so far we have yet to find anything that clearly does a better job of meeting human needs than a regulated capitalist economy coupled with a welfare and health care system that meets the basic needs of those who do not thrive in the capitalist economy."
Also you fail to recognize my points 2 and 3...I gave you 3 philosophical objections and you refused to address any of them. I certainly with you would though...the person I have the most respect for in my life is a Libertarian and I would love nothing more than to be on the same page as him...but my issues are yet to be addressed by anything other than straw men arguments...
Needless to say, our conversation did not end well. Turns out, he is an anarchist…He may not be the best example, but I do urge Libertarians to address my philosophical objections. If no one can address them, I can only assume I am right and the Libertarian model is flawed and not realistic.