This guy is rapidly becoming one of my favorite youTube users.
This guy is rapidly becoming one of my favorite youTube users.
Yesterday I officially joined NCSE’s “Project Steve” which is collection of scientists named Steve (or it’s variants) who support the following statement:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to “intelligent design,” to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation’s public schools.
The project was started as a tongue and check response to the various creationist lists and petitions such as the “101 scientists who reject natural selection” and so forth. The intent of Project Steve is to show that while creationists might be able to find groups of scientists and engineers who reject evolution, there are tens to hundreds of times as many scientists who accept it. More details on the project can be found here.
Finally, for those of you interested, here is a great video by youTube user DonExodus2 where one of these creationist lists is scrutinized in some detail and shown to be more than a little dishonest.
As the title says, I am not a fan of Glenn Beck and so I particularly enjoyed these two videos. One is from the youTube user Thunderf00t, who I have mentioned in the past. The second is from another youTube user, The Liberal Viewer. The best I can tell, he is an ACLU lawyer working out of Sacramento CA, and he makes quality political commentary videos.
An interesting and anticipated discussion between prominent youTube atheist Thunderf00t and professional apologist Ray Comfort appeared on youTube a few days ago. Thunderf00t is responsible for the “Why do People Laugh at Creationists” series while Comfort is a co-host of the show “The Way of the Master” and is the man responsible for the infamous banana argument. Many on youTube were quite excited when Thunderf00t announced that Comfort had agreed to meet with him and film the discussion.
Here is the first part. You can find the remainder of it on Thunderf00t’s channel.
The conversation meanders through a number of topics ranging from evidence for evolution, the source of morality and even as far as specific biblical passages. As a result, it lacks the focus many hoped it would have but, nonetheless, it is still worth while watching if you have been following these sorts of debates.
In the few days that the video has been available it has generated a lot of discussion. It’s even brought VenomFangX out from under his melodramatic rock with a video response offering his typical unimaginative, illogical and simplistic analysis. This is almost fitting, since VFX’s style of thinking is much like Comforts.
Like all apologists, throughout the discussion Comfort continually moves the goal post. Whenever Thunderf00t provides a good natural explanation for a phenomena, such as how snow is made, Comfort would simply move the goal stating that his God created the process Thunderf00t just described. Unfortunately, Thundetf00t didn’t press Comfort enough when he did this, much to my disappointment.
The contrast between the questions posed by the two debaters and depth of their respective answers was also telling to me. Comfort tended to frame things in simple black and white terms, offering definitive answers that essentially boiled down to “God did it”. When asked for evidence of any kind the response was inevitably some variant on “because the bible says so”. Such answers are deeply unsatisfying to anyone interested in truly understanding what is knowable about the world and Thunderf00t didn’t seem to be satisfied by such simplicities.
Throughout, Thunderf00t looked to what we know from scientific progress over the years, allowing for much more sophisticated answers with a deeper insight into underlying causes. When asked if murder was immoral he not only stated that is was but also offered an explanation as to why we find it immoral. He is addressing not only the question of what fits into our moral framework but why our framework is shaped the way it presently it is.
When pressed back to the “origin of the universe” Thunderf00t first pointed out that the question contains the underlying assumption that there was in fact a beginning, a point completely lost on Comfort. Thunderf00t then continued by pointing out that it what happened prior to the big bang was currently unknown by scientific standards. At first this may sound like a cop out but it isn’t. It is simply accepting that there are limits to our present scientific understanding and an unwillingness to compromise our understanding by invoking unsubstantiated claims to fill the gaps.
Over the years I have come to realize that, if one values correctness, simple answers are difficult to come by. When they are obtainable, they usually require years of study and contemplation. The discussion between Comfort and Thunderf00t reflects the thinking of two different kinds of thinkers. One who has accepted a simple answer without verification and one who seeks out simple answers but not at the expense of correctness. I will leave it to you do decide who’s who and which is the better approach.
I want to share a video by the youTube user AndromedasWake on the scales of the universe that I found quite enjoyable.
Here is his channel if you’re interested. He has quite a few videos on cosmology that are well worth watching.
I have started writing up the first draft of my thesis and so my time over the next while will be limited. Actually, that is a lie. I find the prospect of joining the real world frightening and procrastination will be the likely course of action. So, in that spirit, here are some interesting videos.
This is a 6 part uncut interview with Darren Brown conducted by the king of the atheists Richard Dawkins. Brown is a British magician and mentalist and his shows, Trick of the Mind and Trick or Treat are great. One of my favorite tricks involves convincing an unsuspecting pub patron into believing they were in a full on zombie shoot em up game
. (Since it was done on TV you can never be sure of how much was staged and how much was legitimate. But the illusion is nice.)
I also find it cool that a lot of the mental trickery that Brown employs are similar to the methods used by members of the pick-up artist community. The human brain appears to have evolved in such a way that it has very predictable responses to whole categories of stimuli.