Riker's Mailbox

Monday, December 24, 2007


Here I am, blogging on a warm and sunny Southern California Christmas eve... I'm definitely missing my wintery upstate NY hometown. But alas, I have vestigial traditions to attend to! The holiday spirit is alive and well within this vessel :)

Taking a cue from some historically chill religious figures, for this Christmas eve post I'm going to tone my essay down and address an issue that should give proactive "evangelical" atheists pause...

One of the toughest challenges we will face as evangelical atheists will come as we attempt to inoculate the religious against the sunk-cost fallacy. Can anyone imagine deconverting a grandmother who spent her entire life going to mass and praying nightly, deriving comfort and guidance from her rosary beads?

To shake the very foundations of one's upbringing, to be told that all he's been taught is incorrect, would be so difficult and painful to wrestle with. The desire to stick with his old beliefs would be incredible for two reasons: first, it's not likely that he would even accept the new information as valid, and second, if he does recognize it as valid, then it follows that he would have to acknowledge that all the time, resources, and effort* he spent on his religiosity was for naught.

Have you ever picked a bad line at the grocery store, waiting and waiting while the other lines move briskly along? Notice how you hit a point of no return... "I've waited this long, I'd better get my time's worth. I'm staying." This is a strong compulsion.

And it's completely wrong.

The correct choice is to move into one of the faster lines as soon as you recognize the delay in your own. But you feel attached to the time and effort you spent by choosing it, so you stick with the bad choice. I've felt this compulsion strongly enough in a checkout line. Imagine feeling it about sixty or more years of personality-molding belief structures. It must be shattering to go through.

Considering this, we have to decide if it is still worth the attempt, or if there should be a cutoff point limiting our efforts to a population less likely to be so difficult to reach. It was said that we should expect to 'lose a generation' if the country were to convert to the metric system. Should we plan to lose a generation on the march toward secularism? While the English/metric conversion would yield inconvenience and confusion for the 'lost', with religion/secularism it's a moral dilemma. How can I in clear conscience let someone continue to waste the remainder of their days putting energy into a system that will not pay back? And yet, how can I be so cruel as to pull the rug out from under them and show them what will appear to be a very harsh enlightenment?

The line might be there. On one side, truth. On the other, bliss. Who's prepared to draw it?

* -I think I'm going to acronymize this into 'TRE'... I feel like I'll be using this term a lot in the future.

Friday, December 21, 2007


For a long time, I was a global warming skeptic.

I blame it entirely on Michael Crichton, when he forced me to read 'State of Fear' by being one of my favorite authors (The Terminal Man, The Andromeda Strain, Eaters of the Dead, Sphere, The Great Train Robbery, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, The 13th Warrior, and Timeline, for chrissake). Honestly, I should've seen it coming with 'Prey'. He was losing his touch.

State of Fear is essentially an anti-global-warming-opus, and it turns out to be based upon some, *ahem*, flawed information.

Do yourself a favor. Reserve ten minutes to watch this film. Agree or not (as I disagreed once), give it an honest listen, and then share it. Really.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I was gonna save this for much later, but reading a recent series of posts and commentary on Possummomma's blog, I had to sound off on it...

I've read through dozens of debates between theists and atheists over the last year or two, and over the course of doing so, I noticed a recurring phenomenon that seems to be the single most common reason why these debates often end in a flaming wreck.

The Christians who fight tooth and nail against the most solid reasoning, the ones who unfailingly and effortlessly have a response and excuse for every monumental counterpoint, the ones who inevitably turn into violent and aggressive animals once their best attacks are parried, all seem to inhabit the same trait: they can't "turn off" the existence of God.

In other words...

A lot of these Christians seem unable to take the cognitive leap into someone else's perspective. They try to wade through all our arguments under the pretense that God still exists, instead of looking at it under the assumption that he does not.

It is the ability to do this very thing that allows us atheists to be so solid in our conclusions about the world... when weighing the theistic arguments, we can and do look at things under the pretense that God exists.

And when we do that, what we observe simply doesn't jibe with that presumption.

There will always be the problem of theistic blindness to the reality that the world does not behave as it undoubtedly would if God existed. Christian gamblers have their prayers answered exactly as often as non-Christians who don't pray and end up winning. God only heals those who have the exact conditions that we as humans know how to cure with our own learned scientific skills. God might actually exist and be doing these things.

Well if that's the case, then God's trying awfully hard to remain indistinguishable from 'nothing at all'. And in that case, then... what in the world is the difference?

Friday, December 07, 2007


Alright, now that I'm no longer a member of Blogrush, it's time for some hate-speech!!

(NOTE: At present, Ann Coulter is the only person who's made the ranks of my hate-speech list, so expect it to be about her whenever I use the term)

Ann Coulter, who hasn't changed her tampon in years, wrote an article for Vanity Fair* (in the same issue as the Tom "I'm bat-shit insane" Cruise, Katie Holmes and Suri cover story, in case you want to see for yourself) in which, among other unbelievably dense rantings, let slip that not only is she a young-earth creationist, she is a flat-earth creationist.

Whether the bitch has any explanation for the photos taken from space is at present unknown to me.

Regardless, she then hammers her point home making allegations against the vast liberal conspiracy that's planting globes in all the classrooms and explaining why the people on the other side don't fall off because of this cockamamie theory of gravity. She reminds us that gravity is only a theory, and that people like Pol Pot and Stalin also believed in gravity... authoritatively linking the roundness of the earth with pure evil.**

If I may, I'd like to try my hand at using this remarkable logic in an argument. What follows is a hypothetical conversation I'd have with Ann Coulter, assuming I'm out after the sun has set and she's not already out sucking on the necks of the homeless when I stop by to chat:

Me: "Ann, do you believe that two plus two equals four?" Ann: "Nowhere in the bible does it bother to say that, so it must not be important. Next question."***
Me: "Ann, all snarky avoidance techniques aside, if you were in math class and your teacher asked you what two plus two equals, what would your answer be?"" Ann: (sighs frustratedly) "Four."
Me: "Hmm, that's very disturbing. Jeffrey Dahmer also believed two plus two equals four. I had no idea you were a mass-murdering cannibal."****

In my amateur opinion, this woman is an intellectual parasite who robs listeners of their sanity... and then consumes it en masse, metabolizes it, and expels it as what I can only assume would be legendarily pungent flatus.

Ann, you're the worst kind of person.

* - I was at a coffee shop waiting for my order, and I was bored. Don't judge me.

** - I'm separating this one for the distinction it deserves. There is a slight possibility that she was using sarcasm here when she said this. If so, Ann Coulter has grasp of neither the purpose nor the application thereof. She's being sarcastic about the things someone arguing against her would be sarcastic about. Unless... what if she is using some ultra-subtle
double-sarcasm where she's invoking her opposition's sarcasm for them??

*** - She used this in her article, so... I'm not taking liberties you might think I'm taking.
**** - Okay, I did kind of suspect it, but I was trying to be polite.