Tuesday, May 15, 2007

World Peace

Contrary to the opinion of my father and other believers, I actually try to keep an open mind and see both sides, especially in areas where my knowledge is limited. So, I'm trying to learn more about Islam because I work with Muslims and so far they all seem very nice, decent, hard working people and not a single one has threatened me or tried to do me harm or, for that matter, tried to convert me to their religion. In other words, they are a lot like most of the people I work with and I'd like to understand a little more about their religion and how they can believe and be peaceful while many of their fellow believers use Islam as a philosophical springboard for genocide and hatred.

I recently finished listening to "The Truth About Mohammed." When I finished I felt I'd learned how Islam is used to justify violence and repression around the world, but I also felt like I'd just read a very one sided polemic. What I didn't learn from the book was what made Islam such a popular religion throughout the world and across many different cultures. The author didn't even make an attempt to show any redeeming value to Mohammed's life or the religion he founded.

So I picked up what I knew would be a polemic in the opposite direction, "Islam and World Peace." So far it is pretty typical of a lot of religious writing in that it consists of a sequence of unjustified assertions that probably seem like self-evident truths to the author, but that quite questionable to me.

The gist so far seems to be that the cause of all of the violence in Jerusalem and the rest of the world is unbelievers and that if all of the believing nations of the world would just expel or otherwise get rid of the unbelievers and follow the law of God then the world would be at peace. My interpretation would be that if we would all just accept the truth of Islam then we'd have peace. That makes sense in a certain way but begs the question about how to persuade the unbelievers to believe. Mohammed started out preaching and trying to persuade, but the only thing that ultimately worked for him was warfare and complete intolerance of other religions. So, does that mean that to achieve peace the believers need to declare war on unbelief and destroy or expel all unblievers? Wait, isn't that what the Islamic terrorists are saying? Now I'm confused again. I guess I'll have to keep listening to the rest of the book.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Transitional Life Forms

Man, Kirk Cameron is a nut job. I was watching Nightline and they had a "debate" between the Christian religionists and a couple of atheists debating the existence of God. The best proof of the atheists was the stretched analogy between a painting and the universe; a painting is proof of a painter so the universe is proof of a creator. They had no good answer to the question of if everything has a creator then who created the creator (i.e. infinite regress). They claim, incorrectly, that most people disbelieve in God because of evolution. Their chief complaint seemed to be the lack of transitional life forms. Cameron put up artistic rendering such as a croco-duck, a bull dog, etc. Humorous, but I think he was being mocking.

The trouble is that these arguments seem to hold sway with creationists which just shows how ignorant they are about evolution and science in general.

Just last week I stumbled into an evolution discussion with a co-worker. I quickly found myself scurrying to extricate myself as the claims became more extraordinary and the lack of touch reality mounted. All this with an intelligent, well-educated, engineer. I was amused when he admitted that the whole point of intelligent design was not to put forward an alternate scientific theory but to use real or perceived holes in scientific knowledge as evidence that there must be a God. He also admitted that it was essentially appealing to magic to explain what we don't understand.

As Dawkins would point out, just because we don't know something or that a scientific theory is disproved doesn't mean that the default belief should be God or some other supernatural explanation. God is such an improbable being that it should require extraordinary proof before being seriously considered at all.

Looking back over the past 1000 years, compare the contributions of science and technology as opposed to religion. Religion, scripture, and revelation have never given us light and knowledge about the universe and its workings. Quite the opposite. Religion has had to be dragged kicking and screaming, resisting all the way, and often denouncing truth as heresy.

Anyway, here are my examples of transitional life forms that will probably never be found in the fossil record. Seriously, look at what has happened to the poor old wolf. All the following animals are very, very close genetically to the wolf at the top and in the case of the Doberman are very recent inventions by breeding. Gene sequencing shows remarkable sharing of genes between completely different species. All of these things are to be expected based on evolution. But, let's say that we never are able to explain how one species evolved from another. Does this automatically mean that they were created or engineered by a creator? Perhaps that does become more likely. But then, how did he do it? Was God really a master recombinant DNA engineer and breeder that engineered the earth with natural means? Or was it magic? Is he truly supremely powerful?

I'll favor non-magic explanations because I see no evidence in the world I know to suggest that magic is real. In fact, nature is continually yielding up her secrets to the questioning of science.

Besides, if God does exist, then he has a lot of explaining to do because his creation is a real mess.





Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Worst Sci-Fi Novel Ever

I pity you if you ever did like I did and tried to read L. Ron Hubbard's science fiction epic, Battlefield Earth. I happened on it in the Rochester, Minnesota public library and started reading it shortly after graduating from college. I made it through the first volume and finally gave up on it. Not only was the language terribly inept, the plot struggled along from one implausible situation to another enacted by characters that were completely unbelievable and unsympathetic.

I'd heard the name L. Ron Hubbard and had seen the TV commercials for Dianetics but hadn't yet learned about the connection to $cientology. Later when I learned more about that cynical, invented religion I remembered Hubbard's clumsy book and about died laughing when I realized that the deepest secrets of the so-called religion were just cheap copies from a poorly written sci-fi novel.

Now I read that Battlefield Earth is Mitt Romney's favorite novel. OMFG! This guy's running for president. This is a standard fluff question for candidates. There are approximately a gazillion possible choices that would be better and maybe a dozen that might be worse and he chooses this one. The sheer ridiculousness of the choice precludes this being a calculated answer chosen by pollsters and campaign groomers so I have to assume that this was an honest answer. Which leaves me wondering how sharp this guy can be.

Hmmm. Just realized that I may have confused Battlefield Earth with the 10 volume Mission Earth series. So maybe I'm wrong. But I doubt it.