Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Life with Meaning

Often, I'll read theist (particularly Christian) blogs and commentaries that imply or state that without a god or gods, life is meaningless. One I read recently even suggested that atheists should kill themselves because their existence is so devoid of meaning.

Let me start by saying that I resent the implication that somehow my life is empty simply because I don't fill in any part of it with their particular imaginary friend. Would my life be more meaningful if I believed in a god other than theirs? If not, then their lives would be meaningless according to the followers of that other god. Does it take a particular god to give life meaning? How can you be sure which god?

As for the idea that atheists should just give up and kill themselves, that would suit the purposes of the theists quite nicely. It would give them a final solution to dealing with atheists. Sorry, but I won't go that quietly. I've got too much going on and too much meaning in my life to surrender it so easily. Besides, this is the only life I'm going to get so I don't see any point in wasting it.

Now let's look at from the other side. If you really examine the theists life, it's all about preparing for death. It's an obsession. It's their primary, all-consuming obsession. They're supposed to surrender the earthly for the spiritual and the promise of life everlasting. Their earthly lives are merely a dress rehearsal for the big show. The joy, pain, accomplishments and defeats of a lifetime become trivial when compared to the glory of heaven.

So in the realm of life here on Earth, who really has the pointless existence?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Science made stupid

On Wednesday evening, a group of friends from the Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics joined me for a visit to the Traveling Creation Museum when it came to visit the First Wesleyan Church in the city where I live. From the moment I arrived in the parking lot to see the vehicle that this thing arrived in to the moment I walked outside to breathe fresh air, it was an awesomely underwhelming experience.

The vehicle itself was a somewhat beat up Dodge van with a cheesy magnetic sign on the side that promised "True Science Workshops." Maybe I can get my $3 back because this was definitely false advertising. Behind the vehicle was a small trailer presumably for toting the materials around.

Once inside the church, we each paid our three bucks and were told to wait in the sanctuary. Incidentally, if there's any proof that there is no God, not a single one of us burst into flame as we sat there. After a wait of about 10 minutes, we were ushered into the room that held the "museum." This consisted of a collection of illustrated text panels, a small display case with a preserved rattle snake coiled and ready to strike, a table with about a half dozen actual fossils, a small box that represented the Noah's ark, a table with a model of an Aztec pyramid, a table with ancient artifacts from Egypt and other places, a table with artifacts related to crucifixion and a small display case with two pages from different versions of the Bible. Yes, this was the "museum."

Our guide was a Mr. Sean Meek. He went panel by panel, explaining how each was true and how the stuff revealed by scientists is merely "made up." From that moment on, I decided it would be best if I didn't say anything because the torrent I'd unleash would have melted that building to the ground. So I sat, replied occasionally and said very little at all. I did, however, take a great many pictures that I will post soon.

The vast majority of what he had to say was the same old song and dance we've gotten from creationists for about 150 years. Probably the most ridiculous thing he said was that scientists couldn't know what happened when the universe was young because "they weren't there." Well, Mr. Meek, neither were you. But unlike you, scientists have looked at the data from the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) and done some real research to bolster their case.

The major downfall of his reasoning (if one can truly call it that) was that he seemed to think that if he could demonstrate that the "evolutionists" (a word I truly despise) were wrong, that it made his case right by default. I don't know how many times I've said it, can say it and will say it but proving someone else wrong doesn't necessarily make you right. It excludes the idea that there may yet be another explanation entirely. But, rest assured, he did nothing to demonstrate that modern science was incorrect. He tried and he had those who wanted to be convinced in the palm of his hand. The skeptical among us... that's another issue entirely.

He also made the mistake of asking people in the audience for answers to carefully worded questions. My guess it was so he could show off his dazzling intellect as he made logical circles around their arguments. Instead, he invited a show down and one of our group was happy to oblige him... until the church's enforcer, an older gentleman reminded our guy that "this is a lecture, not a debate."

The closest I came to leaping to my feet and shouting him down was when he spoke of the races and how there was only one race. Yeah, he's right about that; we're all humans. But he spoke of albinism as a mutation and how many mutations were benign while others were harmful. In that sentence alone, he acknowledged the underlying principle behind evolution and anything else he had to say became completely superfluous. He also demonstrated the difference behind good science and the stuff he was peddling: go where the conclusions naturally lead you, not where you want them to go.

His lecture went on for about 30 minutes or so. I continued to take pictures and was especially intrigued by the amazing array of materials for sale in this church. I was so impressed that I wrote a separate blog entry about it and what I think Jesus would say if he were to see it.

If this tacky display of text panels and a few paltry artifacts is the best that Meek can conjure, the scientific community has very little to fear. But there are other traveling creation museums and that overpriced tribute to Fred Flintstone in Kentucky. So Meek marches beside other soldiers as he crusades against the human intellect.

As for Mr. Meek, after a great deal of probing by one of our members, he admitted his background is in elementary education. I'm not one to flog credentials but if you're going to take on the sciences, it seems only befitting that you should have a background and understanding of science. He was trying to refute things that he quite obviously didn't comprehend except on the most superficial level. I'm sorry but I can't take science teaching too seriously from someone whose qualifications may be merely to teach grammar to fourth grade students.

This last I address directly to Mr. Meek:
You are not a man of science and have no understanding of the discipline. You fail realize that science is a self-correcting mechanism and that we clean up our own mistakes. You start from ready-drawn conclusions then interpret the data to fit those conclusions. As the dean said to Peter Venkman in Ghost Busters, "You are a poor scientist."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

What did Jesus say about buying and selling in the church?

I went to the Traveling Creation Museum last night and will write more about it later. But while I was going through the pictures I took, the one of all the wares for sale caught my eye.

Now just exactly what was it that Jesus said about buying and selling in the church?

Oh, I remember now. It was in Matthew 21:12-13

12And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

13And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.