Riker's Mailbox

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Hemant Mehta asks:

How serious do you take your atheism?

Let’s find out.

Copy and paste the list below on your own site, boldfacing the things you’ve done. (Feel free to add your own elaboration and commentary to each item!)

My comments are in that burnt-orange color that's such a favorite of mine.

  1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge.
  2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard DawkinsDaniel DennettChristopher HitchensSam Harris) in person.
  3. Created an atheist blog. Duh.
  4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone.
  5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic. Not offended, per se, but I corrected them.
  6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron.
  7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know.
  8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc. I don't have a hard copy, simply because I use the skeptic's annotated bible.
  9. Have come out as an atheist to your family.
  10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering.
  11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization.
  12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony.
  13. Donated money to an atheist organization.
  14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins. Not solely to Dawkins.  There's room for Sam and Chris (haven't gotten around to buying Dennet yet).
  15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism.
  16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize.
  17. Hid your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away.
  18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc).
  19. Attended a protest that involved religion.
  20. Attended an atheist conference.
  21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel.
  22. Started an atheist group in your area or school.
  23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism.
  24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die.
  25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction.
  26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place.
  27. Lost a job because of your atheism.
  28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count).
  29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills.
  30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. 
  31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”
  32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying.
  33. Have turned on Christian TV because you need something entertaining to watch.
  34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist.
  35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant.
  36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service).
  37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free InquirySkeptic)
  38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism.
  39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God.
  40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift.
  41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public.
  42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically becauseyou wanted to argue with them.
  43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God.
  44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants).
  45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it.
  46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.”
  47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all.
  48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to…
  49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray.
  50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you.

So I'm a solid 22.  There are more that were kinda... 'close to target' but not quite, so I left them off.  Some items I left off, and having done so could be considered more hardcore atheist than doing the thing listed.  Anyway, it's all good in the 'hood.

Catch you guys again next month!

Thursday, November 20, 2008




Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I saw this on the news last night. It's all over the internet today.

To most it's a tragic tale about the economy.

But I can't help thinking it's a tragic tale about religion.

Father kills family and himself, despondent over financial losses

Karthik Rajaram murdered his entire family because he ran out of money. This was not a knee-jerk emotional reaction to shocking news, either. He indicated in one of his several suicide notes that he'd been planning the atrocity for months. He, and I am paraphrasing here, went back and forth between the options of just killing himself or killing himself and his family. In the end he decided that killing the whole family was the more honorable thing to do.

I try to step into the mind of the person I'm reading about; I really try hard. But I cannot do it in this case. I simply cannot make any kind of sense or detect any kind of rationality in this persons apparent thought process... until I insert religion.

I'm not a parent. But I've known a few in my day; the only thing he could have been motivated by was the desire to spare his family the misery of living poor. So if I were he, my options would be:

(1) deal with living poor.

(2) kill myself and leave my family to deal with the pain of losing their father/husband, but maybe they get to cash in on my life insurance policy.

(3) kill everyone. Inflict upon all of us a brief but unimaginably horrible physical and psychological pain followed by nonexistence.
Obviously the only rational choice is #1. Who knows, after all, what opportunities might come down the road? Why deny yourself the chance to recover? Unless, of course, #3 is reworded to "Inflict upon all of us a brief but unimaginably horrible physical and psychological pain... followed by the next life and a chance to start over."

You see, Mr. Rajaram and his family were Hindu. His children were named after Hindu gods and mythical warriors. It is a safe bet to assume that at least he, if not his entire family, believed in reincarnation. With that belief thrown into the mix, it is finally possible to comprehend how the treacherous idea of murdering six people can be seen as not just tolerable, but downright noble.

And it makes me physically sick to realize it. I don't need to punctuate the story with a somber note about how irrationality needs to be purged from our global family; the article states it clearly enough to those who are paying attention.

And the hits just keep on coming, though this one has no ostensible religious or economic motivation:

Cops: Ky. Woman killed daughters, self

Sorry to leave things on such a sour note. Watch the debate tonight, everyone. It's really important.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Still here.

Still don't believe in God.

Just been incredibly busy at work, which is the only time I blog. Incredibly busier outside of work.

But I'm not done writing, and I'm certainly not done philosophizing my way across the vast landscape of modern American atheism.

Still here...

Thursday, August 21, 2008


For the last couple weeks, I've been concurrently writing a loose collection of thoughts and reading through the series of threads and comments on Stephen Law's blog involving the notorious Sye Tenb of Sinner Ministries' "Proof of the existence of God" website. The latter, by the way, is a tedious yet fascinating deconstruction of the presuppositionalist mind. If you have an interest in learning the basic language and processes of philosophy and have a few hours to kill,* I can't recommend strongly enough that you go over and read it yourself. After you read my entire archive of brilliance, of course**.

Anyway, I wanted to make mention of the Stephen Law bit before I tried to assemble the aforementioned thoughts of mine into a more coherent piece of Vicious Atheist Propaganda***. I'll probably be back to talk about Sye after I'm done trudging through the last couple entries. Which might still take a couple days.

Regardless, here's the latest outpouring. It takes the form of a letter to a believer. The filter is off; if I can't find a good place to insert a tidbit, I'll just stick it at the end on its own. I don't want to mold this one too much:

The Latest Outpouring

I say "According to what I've studied, and based upon the information available to me, the world works in such a way that indicates there is no god, instead of a god or gods," to which you may say, "Well, explain it to me, then." And alas, I basically can't.

I can't explain it to you for the same reason a high school student can't ask his teacher to explain how her education enabled her to get a job teaching, and then turn around and get hired himself... I cannot do your learning for you; if we could, basic education would not take as long as it does.

The best I can do is show you the high standard (and rigor) against which my beliefs are tested, and tell you that the information that convinced me is indeed available to you. In essence, and not without irony, I want you to take it on faith. Not my conclusion, mind you... just the fact that the information that formed my conclusion is there. If you truly want to put your beliefs to the test, even in an effort to strengthen your own conclusions, I'll show you how, and I'll go a step further and point out a few places to start you along your search.

But if you actively refuse the information, you must know that you are denying yourself, and are therefore lying to yourself for the comfort of maintaining a framework that goes unchallenged, which is not a victory in any context. It is a forfeit. And if you do make the effort, you may still conclude that you were not wrong. Furthermore, you will have that much more confidence in your own position... which I can respect even if I believe you should've been convinced otherwise.

I know that for many, it is painful and difficult to be informed that they're wrong, especially regarding their highest beliefs, and even moreso the longer those beliefs have been held. My own first and greatest challenge along this learning path, and now one of my greatest strengths, was divorcing myself from that reactionary tendency. That I can not only accept, but indeed look forward to, being proven wrong only sharpens my own ability to reflect upon and challenge and refine the conclusions I do maintain, such that the opportunity for others to prove me wrong is diminished; for I have done much of their work myself.

And yet I surprisingly find that those who cannot bear to have their beliefs challenged are so often the same who adopt new beliefs so easily, without hesitation or scrutiny of any kind. Why would people give themselves so eagerly to beliefs that would utterly crush them to discover were wrong? Do people know themselves that poorly? The asymmetry of their overcredulous nature is fascinating, but is also disheartening.

The magnitude of their credulity is matched only by their incredulity toward arguments made against their positions once they adopt them. Where was that spirit of disbelief in the first place? It seems to me that their willingness to believe scales rather directly with their emotional investment into those ideas. They walk in easily with no attachments, then attach themselves firecely. When refuting evidence comes into the picture, the quality of that evidence is secondary to their own lack of attachment to that evidence, and thus it doesn't sway them.

So maybe the issue is that they throw themselves to passionately and fully into an idea once they believe it. We skeptics will not hesitate to throw an idea to the curb once a better one comes along.

A believer's beliefs are a marriage, 'till death do they part. A skeptic's are a one-night-stand. No wonder we're having more fun.

* - and you're a glutton for punishment
** - Made you look!
*** - Do I feel another acronym coming on? Oh yeah, baby.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I'm constantly bothered by the incorrect juxtaposition of atheism and nihilism that I see all over the internet. Had to blurt this out.

***Preemptive Disambiguation***

'believe' (I believe that...): "I have good reason to think that..."
'believe in' (I believe in ____ ): "I support or subscribe to _____ as an idea or as an ideal."
'faith' (I have faith that... / I have faith in... ): "I am hopeful that... / I trust that..."
'atheism': absence of belief in a god or gods. More universally, 'naturalism' - absence of belief in any form of the supernatural.
'nihilism': belief that there is no purpose or point to anything; extrapolated: nothing is worth believing in and nothing means anything. Nothing has value.

***Post-Emptive Missive***

Atheism is not nihilism. ATHEISM IS NOT NIHILISM. I believe in many things, many ideals. And there is a difference between the abstract/intangible and the supernatural. I can believe in human decency, in democracy, in my local baseball team, in the scientific method, and in vanilla ice cream, among other things. I can have faith that my true love is out there somewhere*. None of these things require an appeal to something outside of nature to gain validity. One behavior that may be uniquely human is our remarkable ability to reason abstractly and think symbolically. We can wrap our heads quite comfortably around things that are not physically presentable 'things'. We can understand honor though we cannot touch or taste it.

When it comes to experiencing matters of the abstract, of passion and of emotion, we're just as allowed as the next person. So stop telling us we aren't, and STOP TELLING US WE SHOULDN'T HAVE A REASON TO CARE THAT YOU'RE DOING THINGS THAT OFFEND US IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR.

Okay, I feel a little better now.

* - This is not to imply that I haven't found her; it was just an example. At present, she's sleeping in on her day off. Lucky bitch.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Google is kinda my new religion, in a Church of Google sort of way.

Anything they do, I'm all over. The recently unrolled Lively, which is sort of a mashup of Instant Messenger and Second Life.

If you want to make a chatroom, you literally create a room which avatars can then populate. They perform animations, and do all your 'talking' for you in the form of cartoonish speech bubbles.

This post is little more* than a test to see if I can embed my room into a webpage.

* - because it's kind of also to tell you guys about it.

Monday, June 23, 2008


My junior-hero* Sam Harris is involved in a new study about religiosity and, well... I don't know what exactly**, but he needs responses from two specific categories: devout Christians, and atheists. It just so happens that I know of a few places to round some of those up***.

Take a minute or thirty to visit his website and complete as much of the survey as you can!

* - for an explanation, see BLASPHEMY-ANTIPHON and its associated footnotes.
** - but it's gotta be good.
*** - You're reading one of them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I consider myself a privileged individual for many reasons, not the least of which being the fact that I get to live in Southern California.

A small part of that privilege is having access to some excellent radio stations. I am a daily listener to 95.5 KLOS, the classic rock station in these parts,* and I am a rabid fan of the Mark and Brian show, their daily morning talk/variety show. These guys are smart and funny, and responsible for some wonderful events and charities in these parts.**

This morning, the hot topic was the recent court ruling in favor of gay marriage. The call-in response was largely in support of the movement (it is a liberal-leaning show and listenership, after all), but in the midst of it one obviously Christian lady called in and presented the idiotic 'slippery-slope' argument: "Well if a man can choose to marry another man today, what will he be allowed to choose tomorrow? What if he chooses to marry a little boy tomorrow?"

I'm not going to spend any time refuting Pedophile Lady's argument; my issue is with the way her comment was handled. Brian (1/2 of the show's namesake) quite appropriately dispatched her with a rebuttal and an "I'm ashamed and disappointed that this is your opinion", but he qualified it first with, "this is your opinion and I cannot tell you to change it."

...pardon me while I wrestle this soapbox into position...

Okay. Well, I have an opinion about this, and I most definitely wish I could change his.

Right after I heard the exchange, I sent the show a quick TXT message (a great feature, by the way), something to the effect of, "Brian, maybe some of these people SHOULDN'T be entitled to their opinion when it's based on bad/damaging information."

Well, the coolest thing happened shortly afterward: during a commercial break, Brian called me to talk about my message!*** He was really curious and wanted me to elaborate on my message, so he could get a better feel for the point I was trying to make. He admitted that he personally agrees with me (Another atheist! WOOHOO!), but insisted that he couldn't tell her she was wrong because it would make him a hypocrite. I tried to give an argument against that, but didn't have my thinking cap on (read: coffee in my stomach) and didn't give him the most effective one.

So... he had to get back to the show; we exchanged our gratitudes and compliments, and hung up.

But right after we concluded our session, the brilliance started pouring out. Of course. I went to the show's website to take advantage of the extended format of an e-mail response, and penned this follow-up, which I'd like to share with you all:

This is a follow-up to a TXT message I sent earlier today; Brian called me back and we talked briefly about my statement that some peoples' opinions shouldn't be honored if they're based on bad information:

Brian, I (of course) couldn't think of the best language to convey my point right away when you asked me to clarify... but I want to take another stab at it.

My point is that you are *not* automatically a hypocrite when you present a firm opposition to someone else's opinion... because in some cases their opinion can be objectively incorrect.

To object to an uninformed opinion with an equally uninformed counter-opinion would be hypocritical, sure... but just because an idea is wrapped up in the context of 'Opinion' doesn't mean it should be afforded automatic protection from scrutiny.

It is possible to objectively measure the quality or validity of an opinion - It could be my opinion that Mark is a moron (sorry, Mark), and all you'd have to do is show me the results of his IQ test to prove that my opinion is completely incorrect. I appreciate your compassion if you don't want to offend me by pointing out that I'm wrong (and I think that's a big part of your stance - I won't argue with your being courteous to callers), but this is a relatively harmless example.

But what if there were such a thing as a harmful example? Pedophile Lady makes a claim that is founded by what she believes to be an irrefutable and perfectly correct source - her church, clergy and bible. When the bible was written, it was correct according to the best info we had at the time. But today, we know objectively that there are physiological explanations for the occurrence of homosexuality. We actually know better, now, than to think that homosexuality is a choice. It has been confirmed time and again with the same scientific rigor that has successfully given us 80-year life expectancies, air travel, radio talk shows, and every other miraculous achievement of modern society.

But, Pedophile Lady's opinion is incredibly prevalent right now...

...and simply because these incorrect ideas about homosexuality are encapsulated in the Protection of Opinion, we're allowing countless real people to suffer lives of forced compliance, and relegating them to a form of second-class restricted citizenship.

All for the sake of politeness.

At some point we need to see that we're allowing a greater evil to thrive, because we're unwilling to perpetrate the evil of telling people when they're wrong.


It's about civic duty. We should be able and willing to stamp out harmful ideas and the acts they promote, especially when the cost of doing so (offending christians) is so feeble compared to the cost of doing nothing. It's time to bring a little obligatory rudeness into our arsenal.

* - I'm not going to tell you, but here's a hint: KLOS is named for Los (something).

** - See footnote above.
*** - This dude is a bonafide CELEBRITY. Of course I'm excited.

Friday, June 06, 2008



Website emails your personal message to unbelieving friends after you're swept up in the rapture!

(Not a direct link - I always link through geekologie when they're my source)

Am I the only one that thinks that the people running this service are handily exempting themselves from the celestial self-checkout line by charging their customers $40 a year? Sure, it's not as much as an xbox live membership**... but they're essentially saying, "We're not getting into paradise anytime soon; we might as well get comfy while we wait".

Greed is one of those killer sins, after all.

And let's face it, most of those letters are going to be a variation on the "I fucking told you so" riff. ***

Also, I think they cribbed their delivery mechanism from Lost.

* - FUCK
** - but it's also slightly less fulfilling, unless the peace of mind of having the last word is THAT important to you.
*** - Hell, they already made it through the gate, what's the harm in a little harsh language... especially when it's directed a heathens aplenty?

Friday, May 30, 2008


Oh yeah, I never followed up on my most recent jury duty experience!

I have revised my conclusions. Jury duty is not actually answering machine practice,* it's Government-mandated Surfing On The Internet Via Government-Provided Wireless Access.

I sat in a large lobby known as the Jury Assembly Room,** and spent five hours of an unpaid workday reading web pages. Go Justice!

In other news, I got a new car. I'm in love with it. 2001 Saab 9-3. Five doors, five gears, black on black:

Her name's Carla. There's a story behind that... maybe later.

* - sometimes it still is.
** - that was remarkably similar to an airline terminal, but with way less security, and way cheaper snacks.


I took part in the hardest debate I've had in ages yesterday evening. The funny thing about it is, it was not a debate with a believer, it was with an atheistic agnostic.

This opponent of mine is a good buddy; he's just really tough to argue with. He spends so much time aggressively nitpicking semantics and other details that the person speaking to him never gets to present a coherent statement.

It's like door-to-door salesmen trying to sell their respective encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners to each other, only the vacuum cleaner salesman's pitch consists of knocking his opponent's encyclopedias out of his hands.

Anyway, the primary point of contention boiled down to this: I'm a naturalist, and he's a scientifically-minded nonbeliever who insists on reserving space for the supernatural.

Here's the argument that came to me in the shower this morning.*

Everything that has ever been believed to be supernatural, has remained supernatural right up to the point at which it became scientifically understood. Sounds almost too simple to need to be put into words. The point is, we've never once found anything in nature that, once we learned a certain amount about it, determined that it was actually a supernatural phenomenon. It just doesn't work that way. The progression, for every phenomenon in recorded human history, has been from supernatural to natural... never the other way. So, why is it reasonable to keep insisting that something truly supernatural must still be out there? Isn't it more likely that it's all 'apparently supernatural' phenomena that just haven't been understood yet?

If the 'supernatural' set has been diminishing since its inception, and nothing has ever transitioned into it, don't you just take a step back and say, "Okay, this isn't a sound hypothesis after all."?

I see a string of zeros trillions long, and I make the presumably safe assumption that it's probably more zeros to come. He looks at it and says, "well there's gotta be a 1 at some point..."

He says that looking at the information out there and defaulting toward the negative "there's nothing supernatural" is equally as ignorant as any believer of any specific faith arguing for the existence of their god.

But when the score is Natural: Countless to Supernatural: 0, how much more evidence does one need before a natural assumption is seen as the more appropriate conclusion?

* - Just in time to be a day late... nice work there, Kev.

Monday, May 12, 2008


While not explicitly atheist in nature, it's a topic that runs in a similar vein; something worth rejoicing over in the net news today -


An accomplished physicist is making a career change; he's running for public office. His motivation is to be part of a movement to restore evidence-based decision making to the political system.

I've been a fan of the idea of technocracy for some time now, but I never thought I'd hear about the apparently active and healthy political movement advocating it. As a scientist might say, "Cool beans!"*

* - not an instruction to reduce the kinetic energy of a legume sample.


I talked about jury duty before. Here. I didn't have many kind things to say at the time, mainly because my service consisted of listening to answering machine messages for a few weeks, then being thanked for my service.

Well, It's a couple years later, and I'm typing this from the Jury Assembly Room in the Orange County West Courthouse. Maybe now I'll have something to type about.

It occurred to me in the shower* this morning that our only two civic responsibilities as U.S. citizens consist of selecting people from the middle masses and relegating them to opposite ends of the demographical spectrum... voting leaders to one side and criminals to the other**.

Of course, it helps to be close to one of those ends in the first place. Either way, I'm finally*** going to perform the second sacred duty of citizenship, and maybe I'll have something exciting to report once I'm looking back from the other side.

I wonder if they're going to try to make me put my hand on a bible?

* - as it almost always does.
** - maybe we're all criminals, and we're deciding which ones get carte blanche and the task of figuring out how to pay for everything, and which get a cinderblock studio apartment with everything paid for.
*** - well, maybe not.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


"As Science, Evolution, and Creationism makes clear, the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future."
-Science, Evolution, and Creationism (2008), National Academy of Sciences (NAS)

I'm reading this study, a page at a time, between bouts of doing my actual job today. This excerpt is from the preface to the report, and I had to shake my head a little after reading it. It's that middle sentence: "Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world."

That sentence jarred me.

Now, I know the authors (who represent the entire NAS) have to perform a little political soft-shoe in their introduction, since there is unfortunately a real and significant deference to faith among our political representatives who would eventually be reading it... but that sentence was dishonest.

Let me be clear about this:

Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world like German and burping are different ways of speaking to Germans.

Science and religion are certainly different ways of thinking about the world. But religion does not help us understand anything.* In fact, religion actively hinders our understanding.

That said, I don't expect to read any more politically cautious statements in the remainer of the report; its purpose, after all, is to politely dispatch any and all faith-based concepts that might try to find their way into a public classroom. I'll write commentary on the report after I finish reading it.

Meanwhile, why don't you take some time to read my archived BLASPHEMY posts... I'm totally awesome at atheism.**

* - Well, it does help us understand one of the ways that people are susceptible to dramatic alterations of their personality and of their means of processing information ... but that's only after the application of science. Okay, fine... so I should've said 'religion helps us understand the effects of religion on the human mind.'
** - Does it come across as false modesty when I make a disclaimer about my use of false hubris?

Thursday, February 28, 2008


I can't believe it took me this long to think of posting an article with this title.*

No original content from me today; instead I'm going to showcase some of the other goodies out there. Without much more ado, here's a collection of some of my favorite blasphemies on the web, unimaginatively titled, 'My Favorite Blasphemies on the Web':

My Favorite Blasphemies on the Web

Reserve a Spot in Heaven
The reason I didn't link the site directly is because (A.) They are where I discovered the site originally, and (B.) Geekologie is a tremendously funny blog, the writing staff of which deserve mad props**.

xkcd - The Drake Equation
While not specifically an anti-theistic message (which he does make from time to time), this is a reminder of why it's important to think rationally and require evidence before lending any credence to mere speculation. Be sure to read the alt text over the comic image. His entire archive is like this, and usually adds an extra dimension of funny. Warning - you need to know a lot of mathematics, computer science, and general geeklore to appreciate many of this guy's cartoons. Having said that, enjoy!

Cectic - Mostly Cannot Know
One of many greats. Cectic fires most of his rounds toward generic human gullibility, but that makes for some great antireligious humor.

Russell's Teapot - Irreducible Complexity
The Crown Jewel of atheist webcomics, Russell's teapot is a deliciously funny (while sharp and insightful) look at christianity. The protagonist is a six-year-old named Russell. Read from the beginning and don't leave your computer 'till you're caught up.

Shortpacked! - Bus Stop
This comic is about a toy store and the geeks who work there, but occasionally a movie comes along that grabs the artist's attention. This one was fun. On a related note, I have no idea how The Golden Compass stands up as a movie, but I just finished the book last night and thought it was phenomenal. I'm making my way through the rest of the trilogy now.

* - Really, that's the sort of thing I find tremendously funny. I need to get out more.
* - No, not angry propellers... and not mentally unstable support beams either. The latter of which would be tragic in all its oxymoronic being.

Thursday, February 14, 2008



I don't know what happened; I started writing a post, meant to save it for later, and apparently botched the whole thing, leaving "~Riker" in the space where the article had originally appeared.

Oh well, not too late to fix this. Here is the item I meant to post:

(Let's assume that) Intelligent Design is behind the diversity of life in our universe!*

Let's face it. Intelligent Design might be true. Any scientist can admit the preceding, so long as you attach the following caveat: if it is true, we're nowhere near knowing it yet.

What in God's name am I rambling about?

The theory of Intelligent Design might actually ever-so-slightly possibly be right**. But if that's the case, it will be discovered to be so scientifically.

Assume in the early 22nd century we discover conclusively and indisputably that our entire universe was created by the anthropomorphic God of ethical monotheism***. We learn this to be an absolute fact. If there are any IDers left, they might cheer, "See? we were right all along!"

But were they? Do they deserve the credit for holding a true belief? No.

Let me repeat that. No.

They didn't arrive at their conclusions scientifically, and they happened, by a depressing accident of chance, to hold beliefs that match the objective truth of the situation. What's the distinction? Imagine in Newton's time, that some crackpot awoke from a dream and announced to him that the universe was made of a curved space-time matrix and how that fact would modify gravitational theory. Not only would Newton not believe it in the first place, Newton would be unable to harness the theory for its predictive power because he'd lack the requisite tools and knowledge to do so. He wouldn't have access to the computers needed to calculate or model the theory, or the instruments that would allow him to observe the accuracy the of the theory's predictions.

It would, in essence, be an unscientific understanding on his part... a personal revelation to him that lacked the confirmability so critical to science. It may have been closer to the truth, but it wouldn't get him anywhere. Starting with Newtonian physics as a baseline and advancing our undersatanding scientifically would be the only means by which humanity could advance to the point at which it has arrived in modern times where we can finally confirm the validity of the curved space-time theory.

An IDer today, practicing ID 'science', will never be able to prove intelligent design in the future; he will simply coast forward in time in all his ignorance, all the way to the day when it is proved true by a scientist using the scientific method.

And only one of the two will be able to make any use of that knowledge.

* - Just for the sake of ease in portraying the following assertion; trust me, it reads better this way.
** - Much in the same way that a marble statue's hand could spontaneously wave; the odds are nonzero... but looking at zero you can definitely see the family resemblance.
*** - or is actually a massive simulation running on an alien supercomputer. Equally likely.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


It's 2008! And I present you with: More of The Same Stuff!!!

To the atheist, the fundamental problem with prayer is that even at its most noble (praying for the benefit of another, as opposed to praying for direct personal reward), it still only gives an individual the undeserved satisfaction of helping when they haven't lifted a finger.*

But even for the theist, there is a fundamental problem with prayer.

(In the following section, I intend the word 'answer' to mean "an answer of 'yes'".)

An answered prayer cannot ever be in contrast to God's will... so, either he will answer the prayer and perform the task, or he will not. And if he will, is he really waiting for the prayer to happen first before he does it? He already knows whether the person in question will end up praying, and he already knows what he is going to do about it... so what purpose does the prayer serve? And to those who might counter that an answer of 'no' is just as valid an answer... you have come up against what is the actual fundamental flaw of prayer: The best reason I've ever heard for justification of unanswered prayers is that they serve a greater purpose in God's plan, perhaps to teach a lesson and build character in the person praying, so he will learn to take disappointment in stride and be strong enough to remain stable in the face of denial of his desires.


...See, only in an imperfect world would we ever be denied something we want. Perhaps more ominously, only in an imperfect world would it be in our nature to want things that we cannot have.

Such a scenario can only make sense outside of the framework of a universe designed by an omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity. And that's the god's honest truth.

* - Except for the ten they point toward God while praying, of course.