Saturday, May 19, 2007


Stephen Jay Gould (an evolutionary biologist), in a attempt to reconcile science and religion, introduced the concept of Non-Overlapping MAgisteria1

The basic idea is that science says stuff about the physical world, religion says stuff about the spiritual world, and never the two shall meet.

Nice idea. Doesn't work.

Here's why:

Religion says some crap about God (gods? bipolar? MPD?)
Science: "Talk is cheap, show me the evidence."
Religion: "No way, NOMA says I don't need physical evidence."
Science: "Fine. Go away."
Religion: "I won't. You have to teach my stuff, too."
Science: "Teach your stuff in philosophy or art appreciation or something."
Religion: "My stuff is as real as yours. I can prove it."
Science: "Talk is cheap, show me the evidence."
Religion: "Well, you don't know everything."
Science: "True, but irrelevant."
Religion: "If you don't know, then it's God."
Science: "What?"
Religion: "God fills the gaps in your knowledge."
Science: "Those gaps are shrinking fast."
Religion: "You can't prove God didn't use science to do everything."
Science: "What happened to NOMA?"
Religion: "NOMA says that you have to respect my position."
Science: "No it doesn't. It says that we have to stay out of each other's business."
Religion: "Really? Well then it and you will both have to go."

If religion really stuck to spiritual things, it would never make any testable statements. As soon as it says something testable, it has violated NOMA. Religion (particularly Xianity) does this all the time, then cries "NOMA!" whenever science says that it's full of it.


1Rock of Ages, 1999

Dark Angel

I just finished watching the series Dark Angel.

It was pretty awesome. Not because of Jessica Alba (although her presence didn't hurt), but because it fell into one of the (several) sub-genres of science fiction that I particularly like.

It went two whole seasons. Two. Longer than Firefly, sure. But Firefly didn't have James Cameron's name attached to it.

The series finale was great, but there is still a lot of story left to tell. A couple more seasons worth, at least. I don't know why the show was cancelled, but it was on FOX, so I have suspicions. (see my previous post about Firefly)

Like Firefly, I somehow missed this show while it was being aired.

I just did some looking on the internet. It seems that FOX nixed a third season of Dark Angel in order to air Firefly.

Heaven forbid a network have two science fiction shows at once (Why don't cop and lawyer shows have this rule?). Now I really hate Rupert Murdoch.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'm not celebrating, mind you. I just can't dredge up any grief.

Jerry Falwell is dead.

Pres. Bush said Falwell had lived a life of "faith, family, and freedom".

In a hate-mongering, hellfire-and-brimstone sort of way.

This guy blamed pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians , the ACLU, People for the American Way, and anyone who has tried to "secularize America" (I wonder if he included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin) for the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack in New York.

He's gone now.



Friday, May 11, 2007

Read this

You should have no problem with this, and that's pretty cool.

Look in the comments for the "translation"


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Edith Cecelia Nageotte Marley: Nov. 25, 1908 - May 9, 2007

My paternal grandmother died yesterday. I'm not good at expressing emotion. So I won't, except to say that I'll miss her.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

NeedGod test

I just surfed into this really funny test (thanks to joshua, who left a comment a few posts ago).

It claims to determine if you are a good person. And if so, if you are good enough to get into heaven.1

I doubt anyone will be surprised to learn where I am bound.

After telling me that I'm going to hell, I was asked if this fact bothered me. Well, duh.

I was then told that it should, and given some nonsense about selling my eyes.

Would you sell one of your eyes for a million dollars? How about both eyes for ten million? No one in their right mind would! Your eyes are precious to you... but they are only a "window" for your soul. Your soul (your inner being, your life, your personality) looks out through those eyes. Consider how precious your eyes are... then realize that Jesus said that Hell is so horrible that you would be better off tearing out your own eyes than ending up there for all eternity (Mark 9:43-48).

Perhaps you feel safe because you don't believe in Hell. This can be likened to standing in the middle of a busy highway and shouting, "I don't believe in trucks!" Your belief or disbelief in trucks will not change reality. The same applies in this situation. Your disbelief in Hell will not cause it to cease to exist. God has given us HIS WORD on the existence and purpose of Hell... LOOK HERE to see what God says in the Bible about Hell.

Would I sell one of my eyes for a million dollars? In a heartbeat.

Both for ten million? I'm not sure, but it'd be really tempting.

(However, since neither of them works properly, I doubt I'll be getting any offers)

"Your soul (your inner being, your life, your personality)", uh huh, read this, then come talk to me about my soul.

As for what "Jesus said," CS Lewis once tried to "prove" Jesus' divinity with his "Lord, liar or lunatic" spiel. Either Jesus was divine, or merely a great teacher. If he was merely a great teacher then his claims to divinity were either lies or lunatic ravings, either of which rule out his being a great teacher. Therefore Jesus was divine. The argument is based on a false dilemma. I find "liar or lunatic" to be perfectly reasonable (they aren't mutually exclusive, either). There is also the possibility that the biblical Jesus never really existed.

That second paragraph is pure bullplop. (BULLPLOP!) There is some pretty solid evidence that trucks exist. Where is the evidence of hell? Threats contained in the Bible only affect people who already accept the Bible as true.


1 I thought the Christian doctrine was that you can't get to heaven by good works; that you must be SavedTM

Mr Deity

I just found these. They're hilarious.

There seem to be 10 episodes, plus a superbowl special. Check them out.

This link is to episode 1.

Arguing against religion, pt II

I don't know why, but this has been really bugging me.

A commenter on my previous post tried to compare belief in God with belief in gravity, then tried to back that up with Paley's argument from design.

The entire argument is bogus, and I should be able to ignore it. But some other stuff I have read recently brought it to mind, and now I need the catharsis of a blog rant to get rid of it.


Beliefgravity != BeliefGod

Even without knowing anything about Newtonian physics, a person can observe gravity in action (objects always fall towards the ground). Early experiments can be easily reproduced (ie. Gallileo's (apocryphal?) dropping of two lead balls off the tower of Pisa).

God, however, is much more elusive. Paley's argument from design (joshua even uses the eye, instead of the more currently fashionable bacterial flagella) might have been viable in 18021, but, like phlostigen and aether, thanks to improved technology, science has since shown it to be false. There are no direct observations of God (in any reputable publication). No reproducible experiments that demonstrate his properties.

Beliefgravity = well supported by observation and experiment

BeliefGod = blind faith

Conflating the the two is common theist obfuscation.


1 Paley's argument was that design implies a designer. It says nothing about the designer's apparent maliciousness. (I was going to go with incompetence, but even the most seemingly useless/pointless 'designs' are often brilliantly cruel)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Arguing against religion

My cousin-in-law (if it's not a real term, it damn well should be), Kyle, made a comment that all you need to win an argument against theists are Ockham's Razor and the Atheist's Wager (I'm not sure I know that one).

The thing is, there's a huge difference between what an atheist "doesn't believe" and what a theist "doesn't believe."

An atheist says "I don't believe in X" and means "I don't believe X exists"

A theist says "I don't believe in X" and means "I believe X exists, but it's a sin/occult/tool of Satan, so I'm against it."

Theists also seem unable to recognize this difference.

Hence the common: "Why do you hate God?" Once this gem pops up, the argument is over. Even though the same language is spoken by both parties, communication is clearly not happening.

I recall reading (I don't remember where) about a woman who thought Carl Sagan was arguing for the existence of an invisible, intangible dragon in his garage (Demon Haunted World). That is the kind of communication disconnect we're dealing with.

Plus, I'm pretty sure that most theists don't understand Ockham's Razor any better than they do the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

I have been told that "God did it" is a simpler explanation than the Theory of Evolution.
Showing that:
a) The person has no idea what Ockham's Razor (and probably the Theory of Evolution) really says.
b) The person has no idea how complicated the idea of God (aka the Sky Djinni) is.

Note to Kyle: I put this here, rather than just emailing you, so that I could say "cousin-in-law"


Keyboard fun.

I was going to write about this when it happened, but I didn't have time.

Two weeks ago, my keyboard had an intimate encounter with the dregs of a root beer float (don't ask).

The result was that it would only produce gibberish (even worse than that produced by my alleged typing)

So I took it apart to clean it. Let me say this: Don't ever take apart a Dell notebook keyboard unless you absolutely have no other option. I think if something similar happens again, I'm just going to buy a new computer.

Here is a pic of the disassembled keyboard: (click for larger image)

(I had my glasses off because I'm near-sighted, and my glasses make fine, close work blurry)

and one of the pieces:

Notice the three little plastic pieces on the right of the upper image. They form a little brace for the keycaps. Here's a close up (blurred, unfortunately) of the assembled brace (it's above the 'Enter' key):

Putting this brace together is a real pain. Just to add a bit more fun to the task, the function keys (and the other top keys) are smaller and have a different brace design (I didn't get a picture)

Anyway, it took a while but I got it back together. I only broke one of the little brace pieces. Fortunately, it was for one of the top keys so I put it on a key I never use anyway. (Why do computers even have a 'Pause/Break' key anymore?)

Also, before anyone asks: My apartment is small, and the only feasible work surface was my counter/stovetop.


A really cool puzzle

I found this neat puzzle at Hastings in Rock Springs today. It's called Gordian's Knot. It comes assembled. The challenge is to get it apart. That took me almost an hour. Then the challenge becomes to reassemble it. After about two hours, I gave up, and read the (included) solution book.

Although the assembly solution is the disassembly solution in reverse, there are a lot of steps to follow, and I couldn't remember them to follow backwards. Also, there is only one solution.

Once I'm done playing with it, I'm going to give it to Phil.

UPDATE: There is only one proper disassembly solution. The one I found wasn't it. I wasn't intentionally cheating, but there are some points where the pieces are very loose, and their releative orientation can change, which apparently isn't supposed to happen. I did this without really noticing. I only realized what must have happened because it didn't go back together in the same order I took it apart.