Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Daily Quiz

1. What two personal "assets" made Hitch's particular illness especially ironic (though he insists that there's "no real irony here")?

2. What "narrative expectation" did Hitch not take away from the example of British journalist John Diamond?

3. What view of "old religion's" attitude to life did Hitch share with Montaigne?

4. What "cost of immortality" does Hitch renounce, in a passage cited from Einstein's Dreams?

5. According to Carol Blue, what was Hitch's mood in his final days?

1.85   2.89   3.90   4.93   5.103

Ten non-commandments

There's nothing on today's quiz about Grayling's Good Book, but I don't want to just drop it unceremoniously from our radars on the last regular class day either.

Some parts of GB were more compelling than others, we seem to have agreed, but I'll bet we'd have found more to love if we'd been more focused on it. The syllabus was too ambitious. Live and learn.

Anyway, I love the closing ten non-"commandments" in The Good, ch.8.11.
Love well, seek the good in all things, harm no others, think for yourself, take responsibility, respect nature, do your utmost, be informed, be kind, be courageous.
And a crucial amendment at 8.12. This above all, Mr. Shakespeare?
-let us always be true to ourselves and to the best in things, so that we can always be true to one another.
Never mind, for now, what Freud would say. This is good stuff.

Deconversion Story: "Nothing" Without Christ

I found this excellent post on the Website Our Daily Train.  Also, I'm posting an excerpt from the movie Jesus Camp to illustrate the more threatening (and common) tactic of theistic conversion, which is simply this: scare the shit out of little children.  Here's the full text from the Website. 
Below is one of the most touching and powerful deconversion stories I’ve ever heard, and it shows the power Christianity can have, not only over a person’s social makeup and well-being, but over their view of themselves as human beings.
As this former believer attested, people, including children, are taught they are born bankrupt and into complete depravity and sin and cannot possibly live moral, fulfilling and happy lives without coming to love someone who they also must worship and fear. After realizing the Bible could not be trusted as a source for information, this person struggled mightily with how and when to break the news, and when he finally broke camp with the church, thereby losing most of his social support structure — How readily good Christian “friends” want little more to do with you once they realize you no longer believe as they do (other than shallow attempts to win you back to the fold) — he spent a great deal of time traveling the nation and trying to find his own identify, since his previous identity was completely wrapped up in the notion that he was “nothing” without Christ, as he put it:
If a belief can do this to you you will have almost no chance of being able to critically evaluate its truthfulness. Christianity alters your identity to ensure the survival of itself.
Here is his story:

A conversation I overheard

This past Friday I overheard a conversation on how a Christian thought atheists were atheists. He said that atheists have problems with their bodies and that's why they don't believe in God. I was just wondering what others think he meant by this. Also, my boyfriend had to stop me from saying anything to the guy.

On another note, I would like to volunteer to go on the exam day.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Final Presentation on Sam Harris

I'm not a very good public speaker, so I'll just be showing a short video of Sam Harris speaking on the incompatibility of free will and conscious experience.

Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXTEmu-jUqA

Here are some links to some other good Sam Harris videos:

Sam's Ted Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj9oB4zpHww

Sam and Richard Dawkins on morality and science: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeJrcVhtzYo

Sam on Free Will: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCofmZlC72g

Sam debates Cory Booker on gun control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv4lxLXoiK4

Sam on death and the present moment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITTxTCz4Ums

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Daily Quiz

April 24

1. What materialist proposition does Hitch confirm "it's no fun to appreciate" the full truth of?

2. Whose Last Lecture does Hitch say is an example of how not to be an "envoy from Tumortown"?

3. What functional physical loss does he compare to impotence or "amputation of part of the personality"? OR What is his advice to the aspiring writer, "above all"?

4. What cliched Nietzschean slogan did his illness cure him of?

5. Whose illness with "not the wish to die with dignity but the desire to have died"? OR What "realm" does he say "must be escaped before anything else"?

6. Good Book?

1.41   2.43   3.48,50   4.59   5.64-6


I plan on discussing meaning and my perspective on it. I will  be using some past questions form daily quizzes and personal experiences to guide my presentation.

Dustin Wells presentation on creating a religion and how it applies to my life.

Final Presentation: Morals/Morality as an Atheist

I don't know when I will present but I am ready whenever we get around to it.

I will be showing a video about a fellow atheist talking about how religious people tend to have this idea that atheists have no morals.

I will then talk about my own personal view on how I live life with morals without looking in the Bible to find them.

Here is the link to the video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5Y9S0OqZnY&list=FL2me12Vab3wbmVK9JqWHQ8Q&index=2

“Do unto others…’ is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. But that’s exactly what it is - a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. ‘Do this or you’ll burn in hell.’ You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.” 
― Ricky Gervais

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Final Presentation. Andrew Bird - Imitosis

For my final presentation, if you have the time, look up Andrew Bird's "Imitosis" from his 2007 album Armchair Apocrypha.

Andrew Bird rarely plays the same version of his songs twice, so there are plenty of different versions to look at. Here I'll just post a few.




If you don't get a chance to listen, I still plan to perform my own version of the song before discussing it in class.

These lyrics have had a very large impact on my own views on life and how I think to handle myself religiously and philosophically. I'll include the lyrics under here.

He's keeping busy, yeah, he's bleeding stones
With his machinations and his palindromes
It was anything but hear the voice
Anything but hear the voice
It was anything but hear the voice that says that we're all basically alone

Poor Professor Pynchon had only good intentions when he
Put his Bunsen burners all away
And turning to a playground in a Petri dish
Where single cells would swing their fists at anything that looks like easy prey

In this nature show that rages every day
It was then he heard his intuition say
We were all basically alone

And despite what all his studies had shown
That what's mistaken for closeness is just a case of mitosis
And why do some show no mercy while others are painfully shy?
Tell me doctor, can you quantify?
He just wants to know the reason why
The reason why

Why do they congregate in groups of four,
Scatter like a billion spores and let the wind just carry them away?
How can kids be so mean?
Our famous doctor tried to glean as he went home at the end of the day

In this nature show that rages every day
It was then he heard his intuition say
We were all basically alone

Despite what all his studies had shown
That what's mistaken for closeness is just a case of mitosis
Sure fatal doses of malcontent through osmosis
And why do some show no mercy while others are painfully shy?
Tell me doctor, can you quantify

The reason why?

I'll be dissecting the lyrics to how I feel they are meant to be taken. Any other ideas and views on the meaning of these words will be considered in class after I state my own. 


Introducing Hitch in the Intro course today. Here's an excerpt.

British-born Christopher Hitchens chose to become an American, and no American ever exercised his freedom of expression to greater effect. He wasn't afraid to change his mind in public, but through all his changes remained faithful to his hero Orwell's hatred of dictatorship and servility. 

He was verbally pugnacious, loquacious, frequently outrageous, and is much missed even by many of his religious and political opponents. Francis Collins, head of the NIH, pioneering geneticist, and unabashed convert to Christianity, became his friend and medical consultant. Unlike fellow "horseman" Dan Dennett, facing his own health crisis, Hitch did not bat away the solicitous prayers offered (sincerely or sardonically) by the faithful on his behalf. ("Did you also sacrifice a goat?") But he never retracted his position on religion - that it's poisonous, harmful, "irreducibly servile and masochistic" and infantile. 
“One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody—not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms—had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion, and one would like to think—though the connection is not a fully demonstrable one—that this is why they seem so uninterested in sending fellow humans to hell.”   God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything... 92Y... wfb
As noted, we're reading his incredible deathbed testament, Mortality, in A&P. It's a pretty eloquent rebuttal of the charge that atheists somehow duck or fail the question of meaning. Not even his strongest critics would deny that Hitch's life was full of it. Meaning, that is.
"A life that partakes even a little of friendship, love, irony, humor, parenthood, literature, and music, and the chance to take part in battles for the liberation of others cannot be called 'meaningless' except if the person living it is also an existentialist and elects to call it so. It could be that all existence is a pointless joke, but it is not in fact possible to live one's everyday life as if this were so."
Finally balded by chemo but still vital and defiant and inspiring, he wrote and debated (here with creationist Dembski) right to the end of a rich life cut short by cancer. His "closing remarks" deserve to last. The view from this atheist's "foxhole" was anything but servile.

"Take the risk of thinking for yourself..." 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Daily Quiz

April 22

1. What's the story behind this photo?

2. What's Hitch say about "burning the candle at both ends" OR about "Why me?" OR about Thanatos/Eros?

3.What's ironic or telling about the lives and deaths of the devout and the pious? OR, Did those who said they'd pray for him say his health was their primary consideration?

4.What correlation did the 2006 prayer study find? OR, Did Francis Collins pray for him?

5. Why is Pascal's gambler "abjectly opportunist"? OR, How does the Devil's Dictionary define prayer?

6. Aside from his obvious desire to continue living, why else did Hitch feel "cheated and disappointed" when he found his cancer too advanced to yield to genomic "tissue engineering"?

7. Good Book? Maybe one of the Cicero passages, in honor of "the greatest orator of our time"? (Arguably, anyway.)

1.xi   2.5-6, 8   3.13,16   4.18-19   5.21   6.33   7. Acts 67.31: "After he finished, all his other hearers were astonished..."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Colton McKnight Presentation Synopsis

Vacuous and Fairly Untenable Arguments from the Atheist:
A Proactive Approach
            Throughout the years, I have become increasingly interested in atheist thinkers, new and old, and have thoroughly become aware of its common tenets and social movements. As compelling as atheism has been to me, however, I must confess that I often take issue with a few particular arguments maintained, certainly not by all atheists I am familiar with, that appear to be poorly defended and of little intellectual vigor. I hope in this presentation to present some of these arguments fairly, discuss the points at which I take issue, and to propose a more fitting way in which to engage in more respectable, profitable dialogue. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Earth Week Debate

"Is God possible in a dying environment?"

My debating opponent, like me, is on record denying the existence of a creator God.
I don’t believe in a God who created the universe, chose the Jews, gave us Torah, a Promised Land, and 613 mitzvot (commandments). I believe in a nondual reality evolving toward greater levels of complexity and higher levels of consciousness that ultimately gives rise to beings such as ourselves who can begin to understand this reality, and fashion meaning and purpose that promote justice and compassion for all beings. 
So, either one of us will have to defend a proposition he does not accept, or we'll spend too much time debating definitions ("God," "Atheism," "Possible") OR we'll have to change the subject. I vote for the latter. How about:
  • Is God-talk relevant or constructive in guiding our response to the climate crisis? 
  • Can religious piety make us better eco-citizens?
  • Are "higher levels of consciousness" and "meaning, purpose, justice and compassion for all" inevitable?
  • Is the environment (the planet) really dying, anytime soon? Or is it us?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Daily Quiz

1. Where do traditions come from, and to what end? OR, Does CS think we should reflexively defer to received generational wisdom? OR, What unprecedented condition challenges the present generation?

2. What did the WHO say would be the prompt effect of a nasty nuclear war? OR, Is the extinction of all life on earth at stake? OR, Does CS consider religion in general fatalistic?

3. What pictures are we lucky to have? OR, What is humanity's defining dual enterprise?

4. What "conflict within the human heart" must we negotiate, to survive? OR, What atrophying skills must we rededicate ourselves to developing (especially we in education)? OR, What "commandments" would CS add?

5. What vision of our future does CS find strikingly absent from contemporary culture? OR, Why should we experiment, explore, and search for life in the universe?

6. What kinds of alternative God concepts does CS find irrelevant to the creation of the world or events in history? OR, What's the "zoo hypothesis"?

7. Why should there be a "test of faith" before the issuance of driving & flying licenses? [He's joking of course.] OR, What kind of "kit" should we equip ourselves with?

8. Good Book??

DQs: Do you agree with CS re: "purpose"? (227) -With his view of miracles and skepticism? (230) -With his rejection of the anthropic principle? (232) -With his "absence of evidence" remark? (237)

Do you think it plausible to speak of a god who "merely notes" our free will? 238

Do you agree with CS's interpretation of Einstein's famous "dice" statement? (239-40) -With his "burden of proof" contention? (241) -With his view of Sir James Jeans' thought/energy equivalence? (243) -With his version of materialism? (244-5) -With what he says about "molecular assists"? (247)

1.191-4   2.204,208,207   3.210, 214   4.216-18   5.219, 221   6.236, 238   7.250, 257

Just ran across this...

So I just ran across this article while on Reddit. Yes, I spend too much time on it. All I could say was holy shit.

Jews ordered to register in east Ukraine

Inadequate Myths

I was really struck by this passage in Sagan's The Varieties of Scientific Experience, and it reminded me of the story I've linked to below the quote.

We kill each other, or threaten to kill each other, in part, I think, because we are afraid we might not ourselves know the truth, that someone else with a different doctrine might have a closer approximation to the truth. Our history is in part a battle to the death of inadequate myths. If I can’t convince you, I must kill you. That will change your mind. You are a threat to my version of the truth, especially the truth about who I am and what my nature is. The thought that I may have dedicated my life to a lie, that I might have accepted a conventional wisdom that no longer, if it ever did, corresponds to the external reality, that is a very painful realization. I will tend to resist it to the last. I will go to almost any lengths to prevent myself from seeing that the worldview that I have dedicated my life to is inadequate. I’m putting this in personal terms so that I don’t say “you,” so that I’m not accusing anyone of an attitude, but you understand that this is not a mea culpa; I’m trying to describe a psychological dynamic that I think exists, and it’s important and worrisome.
Here's the opening two paragraphs from an article about a "weeping" statue of Jesus in Mumbai, which, upon close examination, was simply a plumbing leak.  The reaction to the truth is telling.

When water started trickling down a statue of Jesus Christ at a Catholic church in Mumbai earlier this year, locals were quick to declare a miracle. Some began collecting the holy water and the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni began to promote it as a site of pilgrimage. 
So when Sanal Edamaruku arrived and established that this was not holy water so much as holey plumbing, the backlash was severe. The renowned rationalist was accused of blasphemy, charged with offences that carry a three-year prison sentence and eventually, after receiving death threats, had to seek exile in Finland.  (Here's the full story.)
The thought of global nuclear weaponry in the hands of apocalyptic religious fanatics—no less fueled by eschatological fantasies—is truly frightening.  Sagan makes it all too real for comfort. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bill Nye Weighs In

Many of us watched all or part of the Ham on Nye Creationist debate.  Bill Nye addresses the debate about the debate in a self-penned article.  The link is below. 

For a variety of reasons scientists are generally advised not to debate creationists, thus the certain trepidation when our colleague, the well-known television science educator and CSI Fellow Bill Nye, accepted an invitation for just such a debate about origins with creationist Ken Ham. The debate took place February 4, 2014, at the Creation Museum in Kentucky and was streamed live worldwide. Afterward the Skeptical Inquirer invited Bill Nye to give his own first-person view of this much-watched and much-discussed debate, the circumstances surrounding it, his preparations and strategy, and the reasons he decided to take part.

Here's the full story in the Skeptical Inquirer.

Jesus and Mo: Easter is Confusing

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

(This is a list of  Christian leaders and thinkers who all support the theory of evolution and are alive today. There are PLENTY more I can add, especially if we are to include those who are now passed, but this should be sufficient.

Of course, considering that Dean was incessantly whining that I could "only" name seven in a twenty second time-span [apparently, I'm supposed to be a walking Google search engine?], one wonders how many I'd have to name before certain people treat me with enough respect to take my claims seriously.)

William Lane Craig
Alvin Plantinga
Richard Swinburne
Peter Van Inwagen
N.T. Wright
Luke Timothy Johnson
John Dominic Crossan
John Lennox
Alister McGrath
Greg Boyd
Paul Eddy
Jerry Walls
Michael Brown
Dinish D'souza
Ravi Zacharias
Justin Welby
Rowan Williams
James D.G. Dunn
E.P. Sanders
Donald Miller
Kevin Miller
Brian McLaren
Rob Bell
Pope Francis
Pope Benedict XVI
Richard Baukham
Howard Van Till

This isn't a list of Christian theologians per se (although there are many Christian theologians on it), but rather a list of prominent Christians who are evolutionists. I'll give out a slightly different list in a bit.

Daily Quiz

April 10-15

1. Who said facts are stubborn things? Does CS think our wishes can alter facts? (What would a pragmatist say?)

2. Were Percival Lowell's canali a sign of intelligent life? If so, where?

3. What's the "one respect in which our civilization is probably unique in the Galaxy?"

4. How would the reception of extraterrestrial radio signals show us "the universe as it really is?"

5. What was the hopeful emotional appeal of Erik van Daniken's "ancient astronauts" idea? Did CS consider it benign?

6. Who wrote the definitive work on miracles? What did he say we should reject?

7. What's natural theology (what does it reject)? OR, What did Leonardo figure out about Noah's flood? OR, When (according to Ussher) did God create the world?

8. Why do religions make such an effort to attract the very young? [DQ: Is this also why CS & NdT did Cosmos?]

9. What routine galactic events suggest the likelihood of an "apprentice god," if any? (This, btw, might be a relevant point in my debate with Rami. Is this any way to run a universe, let alone a planet?!) OR, Does the fact that some of us are motivated to care for "the young of everybody on the planet" support Kant's moral argument for God? OR, What's the "perfect" Buddhist counterpoint to the Ontological Argument?

10. What suggests a molecular basis for religious experience? OR, Which argument implies a "gratuitous insult" to humanity? OR, Why (if God exists) must He be very busy, and incompetent?

11. What are the key distinguishing marks of happy cultures everywhere? OR, What's theophorin?

12. Acts?

DQ: Why wouldn't a God have encoded a scripture like "The sun is a star," "Mars is a world," or "Thou shalt not move faster than light" or "Two strands entwined is the secret of life", or engraved the Ten Commandments on the moon? 166-7

DQ: Does prayer do any good? 175-7

DQ: If LSD induces religious/mystical experiences, are they credible in offering metaphysical insight? (183)

DQ: How would you compare Sagan and James, with respect to their view of experience?

1.104   2.107   3.118   4.123   5.129   6.136, 144   7.147-8, 151   8.152   9.159-60   10. 162-5   11.173, 184

Group 1: Chapters 4-5 VSE

What is the name of a computation described as the collective probability, which is the product of multiplying individual probabilities together?  A: The Drake Equation named after Frank Drake

(T/F) Arthur Clarke has said that Christian orthodoxy is too narrow and timid for what is likely to be found in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, whereas the doctrine of man made in the image of God is ticking like a time bomb at Christianity’s base, set to explode if other intelligent creatures are discovered.
A: True

If you have a written Philosophy exam coming up soon, here's 5 tips on how to prepare.

Also, check out this new way to read.  It's pretty amazing.

Just in: Creationist Cosmos! 

Mr. Deity is always entertaining.  Mr. Deity is the bumbling YHWH and Lucy is...well...you get the idea.  The Boy shows up is several episodes as well.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Richard Dawkins and Evolution

     When I watched this for the first time it was the first time I heard about evolution. Richard Dawkins explains it using a giant combination lock model and Mount Improbable.

Lyceum: "Disconcerting Experience"

David Wood, of Vanderbilt, Oxford (U.K.), and Woodbury (TN) speaks this afternoon at 5 in BAS S128, on "Disconcerting Experience." A question and answer period and informal reception will follow the event.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Class cancelled

I'm not feeling well today, we won't meet. We'll double up Tuesday.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Daily Quiz

April 8

1. What was the prominent pre-Copernican speculation as to how the planets move?

2. As science advances, what kind of God is evolving?

3. What's CS's point about the Parade of Ancestors?

4. How much do we differ from chimps, blood-wise?

5. Is it likely that life elsewhere will closely resemble life on earth?

6. Why is it useful to study the organic chemistry of other worlds?

7. Why did Halley's comet frighten people in 1910?

8. [Lawgiver 411-41] Faves?

Where in the solar system (besides Mars) did CS especially want to go? 95

Origin of life... quickly, likely - 99

Boeing 747 "spontaneously assembled" - 101-2

1.63.  2.64.   3.65.  4.66.   5.67.  6.69.  7.75-6. 8.

Lawgiver Selections

Lawgiver Ch. 1, V. 35 " In short, the true aim of government is liberty."
" He that knows himself to be upright does not fear the death of a criminal, and shrinks from no punishment." Ch. 4 V. 28
"But laws are not to be confounded with the constitution." Ch. 12 V. 12
"So tyranny, as the opposite of such virtue, is the worst of governments, and is thus necessarily the farthest removed from a well-constituted form." Ch. 13 V. 4

Group 3: Chapter 3

FQ (T/F): Sagan believes that, due to the progression of science, there are becoming less and less earthly phenomena to attribute to direct intervention by a god. (T, pg. 64, "the god of the gaps" theory)
FQ (T/F):  The presence of cyanide within Halley's Comet caused a scare during the early 1900's, despite reassurance from astronomers. (T, pg. 76, during the discussion of CN molecules)

DQ: With the progression of science, do you believe that the outer moon of Saturn, Iapetus, could become habitable, and what implications would that bring about for an Earth in distress?
DQ: Does the presence of organic material throughout various reaches of the universe excite or frighten you?

Also...this is happening

Forget about god, Copernicus is Dead.

Also, this exists.

That puts and end to that.

For all the Dawkins fans.

Hey guys. I just thought some people may find this link interesting. Some times reddit is really interesting. Or may be that's all the time.


Group 1: Chapter 3

Textual Questions

In terms of evolution, is survival the rule or the exception?  A: exception

How many unmoved prime movers are in Aristotle’s argument for polytheism?  A: several dozen

The Newtonian gravitational superstructure replaced the concept of angels with what formula?  A: GMm/r 2

Discussion Question

Will the new TV series Cosmos further divide Bible literalists and science? 

Further, here's Wikipedia's list of some of the known creation myths around the world. This list tops out at around 100.  

Fun Fact

I think anyone who's attended a church service will get a kick out of this. 

Upon arriving late for church, it is important to follow the appropriate Liturgical Rules for latecomers. These rules vary from church to church. There is no single "Christian rule" for late arrivals. In fact, the lack of uniformity on this matter has been a major obstacle to ecumenical relationships. To follow the Pentecostal Rule upon arrival at a Catholic mass, or the Anglican Rule upon arrival at a Presbyterian service, would generally be considered a serious liturgical indiscretion.
Check out the categories under the following link.