Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wednesday entertainment: unintentionally hilarious god and science site

This site tries to reconcile science with god, specifically the many Christian versions of that fictional character.  It is hilarious. Go ahead and pick a page at random, it’s comedy gold all the way down.

My favourite bit so far is the ‘explanation’ of how the Egyptian magicians turned their staffs into snakes to emulate Moses.  First we need to know the scientific explanation of how Moses pulled off the trick:

True magic (not just sleight-of-hand) is impossible for human beings to perform. However, spiritual beings who exist in extra dimensions can easily perform acts that are impossible for those confined to our four space-time dimensions. According to the Bible, the beings capable of such feats are God and the angels. In the Bible, the feats themselves are called "miracles" or "signs." Since God told Moses to throw the stick, we assume that He was the one who actually performed the miracle and not Moses.

Oooh, sciencey. I love the way they start with the ‘extra-dimensional beings’ and then ‘casually’ drop in Christianity as though it were simply an example.  Saying “He” instead of “he” was a bit of a giveaway, though.

So that fully explains – using science – how Moses did it, so how about those sneaky Egyptians?

Although it is clear that God performed the miracle for Moses, how were the Egyptians able to perform those same signs? It seems unlikely that God would cause the Egyptians to perform the same miracle. However, the Bible clearly indicates that angels (both good and bad) are able to perform miracles and signs.1 Presumably, the demons (fallen angels) or Satan himself (another fallen angel) performed the miracle for the Egyptians. So, it would seem likely that the miracles of the Egyptians were real, not performed by the power of God, but by the power of demons. The demons would not want the Israelites to leave Egypt, since this was one of God's continuing prophecies,2 which would eventually culminate in the coming of Messiah. By encouraging Pharaoh to oppose the Israelites, the demons thought they could possibly thwart God's plans. It would not be the last time the demons would attempt to block God's plans. Satan himself (the ruler of the demons) entered Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin (the ruling Jewish leaders), eventually resulting in His crucifixion.

I like the presumablys and would-seem-likelys. No, it really doesn’t seem very likely at all, I’m afraid.  And I love the way the writer forgets the entire premise of the site and drops into full-on proselytising by the end of the paragraph.

The site also has much to say on “The hope of atheism and humanism: the ultimate fate of life, the universe and everything”.  Well, I admire ambition.

Contrary to the explanation offered in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is not "42." Christianity claims that the universe is a temporary abode for spiritual creatures who are destined to live with or without God for eternity. Until recently, science had no answers about the ultimate fate of the universe. However, humanism (the philosophical arm of atheism), through its manifestos and declarations, claims to offer hope for humanity. Are these declarations consistent with the reason and science that they are supposedly based upon?

At least that introduction makes it clear that the author certainly isn’t going to use dishonest tactics to discredit a philosophical position he disagrees with.  I especially like the comparison between a thoughtful and varied approach to thinking about our place in the universe to a comedy science fiction story, great though that story is.

The author cites an affirmation published by the Council for Secular Humanism:

We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.2

Seems reasonable. Let’s see if the author thinks so:

Presumably, this affirmation is a comparison between religious and humanistic philosophy. Accordingly, religion would be expected to lead to pessimism, despair, dogma, ignorance, guilt or sin, fear, hatred, selfishness, ugliness, and blind faith or irrationality. With such a list, it is a wonder why anybody would ever want to be religious, much less choose religion3 over humanism. So, just what kind of good things can we expect based upon what we know from science?

Your paranoia is showing.  The affirmation is really just saying which, of that list of opposites, is the preferred choice for Humanism.  That religion does tend to support the other in each case is not entirely coincidence but that’s not what the affirmation is saying.  But wait…. you don’t suppose the author is going to show how science shows there’s no hope, therefore the Humanist position is wrong and – it just so happens – the Christian one is right?

Yes, of course he fucking is:

So, although humanism may pretend to offer optimism, in reality, science tells us that all sentient life is doomed to eternal destruction.

But at least there’s some irrelevant and misunderstood stuff about dark matter and dark energy to keep up with the ‘science’ remit.

Then there’s a good bit about why the universe is so big if the whole thing is about one planet.  Apparently god was showing off.  Creating just a sun and a planet from nothing isn’t very impressive so to show how truly great he is, god created an entire universe.  And – apparently misunderstanding the anthropic principle entirely – put us at the exact place and time where we could infer the existence of dark matter and therefore witness his true glory.  Nevermind that that place is almost anywhere and the timespan we’re talking about is billions or trillions of years.  The author makes Earth seem like the ultimate Goldilocks zone. God, he says, even went to the trouble of making sure we didn’t end up in a cloud of dust, which would have blocked our view.

The ability to see the expansion of the universe is crucial to confirm the predictions of the Bible, since it first claimed this truth11 thousands of years before verification by science. So, the Bible's claim that the heavens declare the glory of God is confirmed by our position in the universe and the timing with which we were created, since we are at the ideal location at the ideal time to see the glory and design of the universe's creation.

I must have missed the parts of the bible that predict dark matter and the expanding universe, but this is a science site, fortunately, so there are references!

    • Who alone stretches out the heavens, And tramples down the waves of the sea; (Job 9:8)
    • Covering Thyself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain. (Psalm 104:2)
    • It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)
    • Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it, (Isaiah 42:5)
    • Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, And spreading out the earth all alone" (Isaiah 44:24)
    • "It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, And I ordained all their host." (Isaiah 45:12)
    • "Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together." (Isaiah 48:13)
    • That you have forgotten the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens, And laid the foundations of the earth; That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, As he makes ready to destroy? But where is the fury of the oppressor? (Isaiah 51:13)
    • It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 10:12)
    • It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom, And by His understanding He stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 51:15)
    • The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, (Zechariah 12:1)

Well, that makes it pretty clear.  Not quite as clear as if the bible said, for instance:

And lo! the Lord GOD said “oh, and by the way, the universe is expanding. In the past it was all kind of squashed up and then it sort of exploded and now it’s flying apart and getting bigger. And it will look to your descendants like the expansion is accelerating because of all this stuff they can’t see.  Yeah, it sounds a bit weird but in a few thousand years you’ll realise this proves I exist.”

But you can’t have everything, I suppose.

Christianity claims that the universe is not eternal, but was created by God as a temporary abode to house God's spiritual creatures.12 After God's purposes are accomplished, He will destroy the entire universe in a cataclysmic apocalypse,13 and create a new universe14 with entirely different laws of physics.

You know, there are an awful lot of Christians around, scribbling, typing and talking, talking, talking but I’ve never noticed a single one of them saying that. But references!

    • "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. (Isaiah 65:17)
    • But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13)
    • And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1)

and

    • The new earth will have no sea
    • There will be no Sun or moon, no heat
    • Gravity will be absent or greatly reduced
    • No more death, suffering, pain
    • Believers will receive a new body

At least the items in the first list are actual citations, stupidly irrelevant though they are. But the author seems to have forgotten what references are with the second list.  It’s just more stuff he himself has written.

So all this shows us that Humanism is wrong and Christianity is right.  Right?

Conclusion: Cosmology shows us that the hope of atheism and humanism is ultimately bankrupt. Without God, the universe has no purpose, other than to just be, and its ultimate destiny is to become increasingly more hostile to life- until life, consciousness, and knowledge are eternally destroyed when the universe suffers permanent heat death. In contrast, Christianity says that the universe was designed by God to be a temporary place where spiritual creatures can determine where they want to spend eternity. The New Creation, God's perfect, eternal creation will replace this universe before it becomes inhospitable to human life, offering eternal life with God - the ultimate source of knowledge and wisdom.

So science tells us there’s no eternal life unless you pretend there is.  I’m not sure how this is supposed to demonstrate compatibility between science and religion. 

Go ahead and pick a random page to guffaw at. If you find anything especially hilarious, tell me about it.

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