Saturday, 21 November 2009

Atheists in a pseudo-fundamentalist world

It's a strange thing being segregated. It's even stranger when you consider that I'm 13 697km away from their physical location.

I've mentioned before that I spend time one the CARM Discussion Forums (an apologetics group) however the current turn of events makes me wonder if they are actually apologetics.

I didn't actually spend a lot of time on the "Atheism" section, I found it to be rather dull because the few Christians who were there were either those actively proselytising or just trolling. There may have been a few actually interested in what Atheists do and the likes, but not many.

However, a post from the President of CARM (Matt Slick) changed everything. This is where the post is located. Since registration is required the entire post is reproduced below:
Atheists are now restricted to post only on the atheism (future sub boards) and evolution board.

Super Member Atheists will be permitted to keep current privileges to other forums only until their membership expires and then they will be restricted to the Atheism/Evolution board. Any renewals of Supermembership now/thereafter will be restricted to atheism/evolution board.

More changes are coming.

Why? Trolling.
I suggest you don't argue with me about it or bannings will occur.

So because some Atheists were trolling that means that all of us are to be segregated from the religious people because some Atheists troll.

So we are limited to two sections, the Atheism one, and the Evolution and Intelligent Design one. Now these two subforums are in a section called "Secular". There are 11 sections just there alone. All in all there are 100 main sections, each with varying numbers of sub-sections. Atheists are no permitted to use 2% of the entire forum. But that's ok apparently because according to their vice-president, Diane Sellner (Diane S) who says here:
Important notice concerning Atheists/Agnostics

If you want to debate Atheists/Agnostics/Secular Humanists, you will have to go to the Atheism forum, since they will be restricted to the Atheism forums. We will be making a few sub forums in the next day or so for the Atheists/Agnostics.

They will NOT be permitted to debate on the Apologetics or other forums on CARM but Evo/ID for now. Again, at your own risk, don't expect them all to "play nice" you will have to debate the Atheists on the Atheism forum, copy your last post to them and MOVE your discussions to the Atheism forum if you wish to continue your discussions.

See, they're going to give us some subsections so we can talk about similar yet different issues to the rest of the forum.

I guess the reason they aren't banning us outright has to do with their purpose and scope:
The CARM discussion boards exist for several reasons. First, they are to promote conversation among people with different viewpoints. Second, they are to help train Christians on how to deal with false religious systems. Third, they are to help Christians become better equipped to defend the Christian faith against non-theological systems.
This is apparently to allow conversation among people with different viewpoints. This is because this is an "apologist" site. In order for apologists do do what they do they need to be exposed to other viewpoints. It's a logical approach to take because apologetics requires a person to know what their belief says, and also what others think of their beliefs.

Continuing on:
Because of the nature of discussion and facing false doctrines, this means that Christians will be exposed to anti-Christian arguments from such groups as the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the atheists, the evolutionists,1 etc. Some Christians think that this is a bad idea. They say that it is better to have only a discussion board where Christians can talk to Christians without the intrusion and challenge of the unbelievers. If this is how you feel, then these boards are not for you.

Again they stress the need to have different viewpoints. In a way the ideal of the forum is one that allows apologists from different faiths to do their thing.

But the underlined is the interesting bit. In segregating atheists they are creating a board where Christians can talk to Christians (to be specific I mean all denominations) without seeing a non-theist appearing to put forward their point of view.

Then there is this part of the quite extensive rules:
19. Censorship:
  1. Please feel free to agree or disagree without fear of censorship or ridicule. CARM does not stand for censorship but will enforce requirements of decency per the board rules. You are, of course, free to discourse within the limits of the rules.
Technically their actions actually violate their own rules.

But I can't conclude without saying that I understand that it's a private organisation and I'm at their whims when I agreed to join the forum. It's just that it essentially undermines their purpose.

The fact of the matter is that the atheists there are now caged on CARM. We're there to look at unless you want to discuss things with us.

Unfortunately the few Christians that will appear will be trolls and essentially all Fundamentalist Protestants. To be honest the reason I joined was not to argue solely with those people. When I was able to look around I saw many varied posts from people of different faiths, denominations and from a wide range of religious viewpoints. I learned things about moderates and I've become more tolerant of religious people in general.

Now I can look. I can watch all these people discuss things but I won't be able to ask questions of people who will never venture into the Atheism section. CARM has, essentially, censored the Atheists from their forum but at least they threw us a bone. It might be a crappy bone, but it's a bone nonetheless.

I say this now because of a response from a poster calling himself 1TrueDisciple who said in response to me saying that if he were in charge all the Atheists would be banned:

If I were in charge, there wouldn't even be an atheist forum.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

It's too hot to study

I know I really should but it's just too hot.

We're currently having the hottest November since 1894.

It's going to be 36°C on Saturday according to the quick Google check, which will be fun. Especially since it's Pageant Day, but I'm sure we're still going to get a lot of people, but I don't think that we'll get any Guinness World Records for anything this year (I'll tell you later.)

Anyway, I should be studying I've got exams coming up.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ray Comfort makes a fool of himself

Ray Comfort, the banana guy, was invited to debate Eugenie Scott by a bloke called Dan Gilgoff. this was his first post. Eugenie makes some very good points and I'm not going to bother writing too much about Comfort's first post.

For a summary Comfort basically says "book burning atheists are angry racism racism racism Hitler non-standard definition for "atheist" plug for book angry atheists abuse Amazon I like science theory theory theory no evidence qualifiers are bad I only mean well really people should read the book evolution is like Mormonism it's a miracle and Darwin is a fantasy writer."

I must admit that I did like this paragraph:
The problem when arguing with those who believe in atheistic evolution is that they move goal posts by redefining atheism or evolution or the word species. From Darwin to Dawkins, they speak the language of speculation, continually using words like probably, maybe, perhaps, and could've. And Darwinism is as nebulous as a puffy cloud on a hot windy day, forever moving, changing, and expanding—because its bounds are limited only by the fertile human imagination.
Good ol' Comfort. First we see him claim that "evolutionists move the goalposts regarding definitions" considering that he said earlier:
The Introduction also defines an atheist as someone who believes that nothing created everything—which is a scientific impossibility.

That's what an Atheist is? It's not someone who "a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings"?

Why that sure looks like someone moving the goalposts there doesn't it?

Then again there are members in his camp that don't seem to have a very solid definition of a Kind or Baramin.

Then it's that scientists use speculative words when talking about something we don't know for certain. Based on that paragraph then we can say that God must have built the pyramids because we don't know for certain how they were built. Look at all these possible ways that we think the Ancient Egyptians built their pyramids.

Then we see Comfort contradict himself with his "forever moving and changing line. It does make me wonder what he thinks science is. I guess it must be some sort of unchanging pseudo-Bible where you'll be damned for all eternity if you dare change it. It's also a really good hyperbole.

But enough about Ray and his first post. I'm going to talk about his second post.

We start with some back pedalling, Comfort immediately addresses the criticism of his book put forward by Scott, that Comfort removed some of the chapters. Personally I think that the reason Comfort decided initially to remove chapters was so he could make Darwin's work seem weaker then it actually is.

But since he's put those removed chapter back in there isn't really any problem now, even with his introduction you would still be getting yourself a copy of On the Origin of Species.

So let us move on:

Scott quoted a famous geneticist, who said, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." I would like to drop one word, so that the quote is true. It should read, "Nothing in biology makes sense in the light of evolution."

Really Ray? Really?

Nothing at all makes sense? I guess we are seeing another example of a creationist redefining a word, in this case "evolution". It's clear that Comfort takes a middle ground regarding "microevolution". So clearly he must be talking about "macroevolution" which in creationist circles is some fanciful magical form of evolution that has no grounding at all anywhere.

When you make a strawman it's easy to make one that conforms to your beliefs.

Nothing we have in creation is half evolved.

I'm pretty sure when he says "half evolved" it's that a creature has "half a wing" or "half a gill" or something stupid like that.

So I'm going to propose a new theory that explains this:

Evolution is "quantised" (for lack of a better word) so you can't have a "half evolved" species.

My evidence is the fossil record, I now call on the Nobel Prize Committee to give me lots and lots of money.

My second point is that Scott is happy for students to read the first eight and the last 10 pages of the Introduction, but she doesn't want them to waste their time on the meat in the sandwich. She says that this portion is my weakest, most tasteless of arguments. If that is true, shouldn't she then encourage students to read that portion to prove the weakness of my case? Instead, she says not to read it. I wonder why?

Well from what I've read of it, the reason she says not to bother reading it is because it's irrelevant to the topic at hand. What does Jesus have to do exactly with evolution? Or Hitler?

The introduction is just a veiled attempt to poison the well and nothing more.

I'm going to skip the stuff about ardipithicus ramidus because it appears to be Comfort misunderstanding information that he has been told.

So I'm just going to skip towards the end.

She then encourages doubters to consider museums where "you will find transitional fossils galore." I went to the Smithsonian to see the fossils galore, and they were there—millions of fossils that were evidence of special creation. The Smithsonian didn't have any transitional fossils that proved evolution (staunch believers claim that they have them, but not on display). I also visited the evolution museum in Paris (Grande Galerie de L'Evolution). I took a camera crew, and we spent an hour looking for the evolution exhibit. It didn't have one. All it had were millions of fossils of fully formed animals that God created.

(my bold)

Ray, it's a museum about evolution, the whole museum is one giant exhibit about evolution. It's right there in the name of the museum.

I'm going to bring this post to a close. I took a while to write it, because I had a few distractions and in that time Eugenie Scott wrote her reply, and there is a thoughts post.

I'm going to say though, that Comfort comes across as someone who is misinformed about what exactly science is, but I get the feeling that he knows better. I think he's like many of the more vocal creationists (big names and anonymous people online), someone who actually knows that they are wrong, but is so willingly blinded by dogmatic faith that they will torture scientific findings so they can prop up their faith in what can really only be described as a weak and quite possibly incompetent creator God.

Looking over the your thoughts post I think that there are many people who see can see through the lies and misrepresentation of Comfort and his ilk.

However there are many people who don't and are blinded by misinformation. There is still a lot of work to be done in the US, and it will be achieved through the hard work of people like Eugenie Scott and the NCSE.