Life on Earth

Just an hour ago, I was watching "The Private Life of Plants" by David Attenborough on OKTO. It was awesome. Like the previous episodes that I managed to watch, they struck me with awe of the beauty of life. It's simply amazing. The diversity. The complexity. All shaped by natural selection (among other selection pressures), evolved to what they are today and still evolving.

There isn't any full episodes on Youtube of course. But here are some snippets that BBC uploaded:
Carnivorous plants (3:29)
Pitcher plants (4:14)
Fungi growth (1:34)
Giant water lillies in the Amazon (4:27)

The funny thing is, this is probably the same awe that struck the believers and, in some way, prove that god exist.

But that would be in the absence of a proper knowledge of evolution. The notion that god created life as we know it is absurd. Absurd beyond description.

To some believers, the fact that evolution is a fact is disgusting to them. And hence their denial. Somehow, sharing a common ancestry with every other living thing on earth is damaging to their human dignity.

I hold the complete opposite view. I find creationism absolutely demeaning to the beauty of life. To think that god created all living things on earth, in the light of the tonnes and tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of evidence for evolution, is disgusting.

All this complexity, diversity and beauty created ex nihilo? Poofed into existence by god? Magic? Hell, it is tragic to even suggest that when it has been shown that evolution happened.

Eve of Lunar New Year

Just had my reunion dinner at home with my family, my grandmother and my third uncle's family. We had one of those steamboats with a barbecue area around it. Yum.

It will be the first of the Lunar New Year tomorrow. As with any other new year, it is plagued with chinese horoscopic bullshit and crap about fengshui.

My mum buys into it. My dad too. I can't quite talk to her about it. It's a belief too deeply ingrained within my parents. I won't object unless they do something drastic. But it would be nice if they actually listened to what I have to say.

Less than a month after I have made my new year's resolution, I have begun to doubt if I will be able to follow it through.

"Just talk about it." It sure sounds easy enough but practically, it is difficult. I still avoid reliqious topics when there's a christian friend around. Somehow I can't bring myself to speaking about the topic when I'm around them no matter I much I really want to. Sometimes, it feels suffocating. It's just hard to say it out.

For practical reasons, it would be wise not to talk about it. These "conversations" tend to be emotionally charged, at least, to some extent. It would stupid to spoil future cooperations over such things. Likewise, it would spoil any friendship.

Craps. Am I too nice? Or is this the rational way of looking at such?

It feels like the odds are always against the unbelievers. At the very least, believers have the majority.

Kinda reminds me of a quote I read at the forum:

Atheism is weak because theists don't have to believe what atheists say but atheists must believe what theists say because theists believe it.

Meanwhile, Happy Lunar New Year to everyone.

I believe in... So what?!


Yup, sometimes I think that that's the most appropriate answer I can give if somebody says "I believe in god."

Though it may be somewhat insensitive but this short answer seeks to point out the underlying assumption that belief is sufficient to justify existence.

My point is this: So what if you believe in god? Does it make him/her/it come into existence just because you believe it is so? You can think/believe what you want but in reality, we don't have any evidence for god's existence. None. Na-da. Zilch.

Circular reasoning with the holy books won't do.

Complexity and diversity of life has been explained by evolution.

Postulating supernatural entities for the title of "Creator of the universe" is uncalled for.

When we typically believe something, there's always evidence around for them. Why should we make an exception for god?

Relationship with god

Sometimes, believers find it difficult to abandon the idea of god not because they haven't doubted their religion but because they are afraid of losing god himself.

The following is quoted from the forums where a believer explains her stance

For me, however, this has always been about the relationship- which I think I mentioned before. A lot of bad things have happened to me over the course of my life and God has always been the one person who was there with me through it. Sometimes literally the only one. And so to talk with you about Him possibly being fake is a horribly terrifying thought to me. I just don't think a lot of atheists understand how scary it is for people to walk away from something like this, because at least in my case, it means possibly losing my best friend. I could care less if my family looks down on me for questioning my faith and hating me if I walk from it. I have never cared what people think. It's about losing Him.

The link to the original post is here but it requires you to be a member in order to view this part of the forum.

This is an example of misattribution. Just because god isn't real doesn't mean that the feelings aren't real. But they were misattributed. There isn't any god to give you strength, it is you and your inner strength.

The inner strength that was stolen by religion. The idea of god constructed by religious beliefs were attributed certain abilities which, in some cases, is your own.

I found the following reply very "profound-ish"

If God doesn't exist, nothing changes. Nothing will be taken away. The universe will continue to be exactly as it is now - all that will change if you stop believing is how you think about it.

If there is no god, you won't be losing a friend, you'll be realising that he's actually you.

Yes, the relationship with god is actually the you that was lost.

But of course, don't take this comment so far as to thinking that you are actually god. There are other properties which are decorations that were put up by the believers in the past.

Lying for god

Just noticed that AronRa has added the 14th video to his series on the "Foundational Falsehood of Creationism". The 14th video is in two parts which discusses the creationists' claims that they have evidence for creationism.

14th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism
Part 1
Part 2

Click here to see the complete list of videos in the series.

Also, to my disgust, I found that a typo in my blog address would direct people to a BIBLE COLLEGE WEBSITE.

Oh. Their. Fucking. God. Seriously, they sure are eager to mislead people in anyway possible.

All you have to do is to mistype "blogspot" as "blogpsot". And voila! You got lots of crap to see. I hope no one have had the misfortune of being lead to that crappy site while trying to visit mine.

God: Sophisticated or not?

Ah... the Judgement Day Short story. A nice read I must say.

In the story, god was made much more sophisticated than what the believers seem to usually espouse. God was "judging" on the basis whether believers are believing for the "right" reasons. What are the right reasons? Only god knows.

For the believers, it seems almost as if god is extremely concerned whether people believe in him. God seems to be less sophisticated than the one seen in the short story.

God, it seems, is more concerned with mundane issues and is very vain. "Yer want to go to heaven? Just believe in me. If yer don't, yer can go to hell.

Create shitty creations and send them to hell for being shitty. Surefire way to roast most of humanity. That sure seems like a good idea, eh?

Any argument, even the "free will" argument, doesn't work. God is morally bankrupt. 

Take this analogy: An engineer designs a building. After 3 years, the building collapses due a structural failure resulting in the death of 200+ people. It was investigated and found that it was due to error on the engineer's part.

God, on the other hand, is an engineer who KNEW the building will collapse and what is the error he is going to commit but commits the error anyways.

Hardly "moral" material.

A Judgement Day Short Story

I just read a short story about a christian and an atheist on judgement day. I learnt about the story from Unreasonable Faith where the full story is posted at The Atheist Blogger and the story was initially posted here.

Here it is:

The line seemed to stretch back forever. Hundreds of millions of souls, waiting patiently for their turn before the throne. The date… Well, the day is Judgment Day, so you won’t find it on any calendar. The queue of people winds its way down the mountain, through the valley and off into the far distance. Everybody in the queue can see the final destination at the mountain peak. A hundred miles away, they can see it perfectly clearly. And they wait, moving forward a couple of steps at a time. Towards God, and the Decision.

At the head of the queue we find a young Christian, wearing an expression of awe and joy. Behind him, an atheist, looking slightly astonished, examining a leaf she has picked from a nearby bush, trying to decide if it is real or not. Heaven, she thinks, should be whiter, with more dry ice swirling about; not look like a Welsh hillside on a hot day.

The Christian steps forward for judgment.

“Hello Martin”. God’s voice is calm and gentle as He speaks.

“Erm.. Hello. Lord”. Martin’s voice is nervous, as a dozen emotions fight for room in his mind at once.

“This is it. This is where I decide what shall happen to you, Martin. In life, you were a Christian”. It was a statement, not a question.

“I was, Lord. I still am. I have been all my life. I have dedicated myself to your service.”

“Tell me, Martin. Why were you a Christian? Why did you believe in me?”

“Why? Well… Because you are God! I’ve always believed in you.”

“That is not what I want to know. Why did you believe?”

“Because I knew it was true. You were always there for me. You helped me through the bad times. You answered my prayers. You gave me the strength and courage to get through life. I could feel your presence with me all the time.”


“Pardon, Lord?”

“I said no, Martin. I have never helped you. You seemed to be doing perfectly alright by yourself. I heard your prayers, but never answered a single one. Your belief in me definitely helped you on occasion, but I have never intervened in your life. Certainly, you gave me credit for all the good times, but they were your own doing, not mine. You did not feel my presence, because it cannot be felt. The only actual proof you have that I exist at all is here and now. Again, tell me why you believed.”

“I.. I had faith, Lord. Since I was a child I have been to church, prayed and sang every Sunday. My faith in you never wavered. Even when my mother died, I had faith that it was your will, that it was a blessing from you that she passed peacefully. I was raised to believe in you, and as I grew I read the Bible for myself, and learnt of your miracles, and all the saints and martyrs, and the good done in your name. I read the works of great philosophers and they merely strengthened my faith. I knew it was true. ”

“No, Martin. Your mother died of natural causes, and she died peacefully because of the actions of the hospital. I watched and saw, but that is all. As for the rest - the saints, martyrs and philosophers had similar reasons for their belief in me, just as dictators and murderers have had. People have done great good and great harm in my name, and in the names of a thousand false gods. The Bible was written about me, not by me, and was written by people who had similar reasons as you for their belief, just as a thousand other Holy Books have been written about the false gods, or different versions of myself. I ask for the third and final time. Why did you believe in me?”

Martin looked shocked and ashen, but pulled himself together. His Lord was testing him, and he had lived his entire life for this moment.

“I believed because I could feel in my heart it was true. You sent your son to die for us, and I gladly accepted Him as my saviour. I.. I just knew it was true, and now that I see you, my faith has been vindicated. I no longer need to believe - I can see for myself the truth and majesty of my religion.”

Quietly, God spoke again. “Martin, you have impressed me”. He paused.

“But… not enough. You believe because you were taught to believe. You believe because you mistakenly attribute to me anything positive that has happened in your life, and discount anything negative. You believe because it is comforting to believe, and because you are frightened of the consequences of my not existing. You believe because… you believe. I’m sorry, Martin, but there is no place for you here.”

God gestured briefly with his fingers, and Martin vanished. His shadow lingered where he had stood, fading rapidly to nothingness.

The atheist, somewhat shaken by what she had just seen, stepped forward.

“Hello Eve. I like that name.”

“Ah. Hello, God. Thanks”, said Eve, not entirely sure how to address a being she had, until now, considered fictional.

“Yes, you may call me God. Eve, in life you were an atheist. You doubted my existence, even objecting to the very concept”. Again, a statement, not a question.

“Yes, I did. Clearly, I was mistaken.”

“Clearly. Tell me, are you still an atheist?”

“I suppose not. I’m not a Christian, Jew or anything else. I guess I’d have to be called an involuntary theist. Ah ha ha”, Eve laughed nervously, hoping the very real and solid-looking deity before her had a good sense of humour.

“Mmm… Tell me, Eve. Why did you not believe in me?”. God’s voice was kind and gentle once more.

“At one point I did. I was raised as a Christian, and often went to church, and prayed every night before bed. When I was feeling down I would read the Bible. The act of reading it seemed to comfort me, even though the words themselves didn’t seem much help. I think, like Martin, I believed because I believed.”

“And then you lost your faith? You decided I did not exist, and you knew better than those around you? You knew better than your pastor and family?” The voice was losing its kindly edge a little.

“That is one way of looking at it, yes. What I believed did not seem to fit with other things I knew. The Bible clearly could not be literally true, word for word. I knew from biology and paleontology that humans had evolved like all other life, and were not special creations. How life or the universe began, I still don’t know, but could not just merely accept ‘God did it’ as an explanation. I learned about other religions, and how they all claimed a monopoly on truth, happiness and morality. I saw the good done in your name, but I also saw the oppression, genocide and wars. I saw that if people were in need, it was up to us to deal with it, not to rely on heavenly aid.”. Eve felt a little braver, but was expecting the traditional thunderbolt any moment. The people behind her, now at the head of the queue, were slowly moving backwards, trying not to draw attention to themselves.

“Yet here you are, before your God, on the final Day of Judgment. Why should I allow you in - a heretic, a disbeliever, an infidel - when your predecessor, devout and faithful, full of love for me, was consigned to Oblivion? Tell me why. Justify your entry to my Paradise.”

Eve straightened up, looking God in the face. “Why should you let me in? Because I am better person than you.”

If Eve had looked round, she would have seen the entire line of souls, perfectly still and wide-eyed, staring at her in shock.

“What did you say?”, enquired God. His voice, though barely audible, caused tremors in the mountain.

Surprised at still being alive, her mouth dry, Eve continued. “I said, because I am a better person. You have shown it yourself already. You told Martin that you watched as his mother became ill and died. You destroyed him for believing for no good reason, when his whole life had been shaped by that belief. Your preachers on Earth encourage unquestioning faith, yet you do not tell us whether that is what you want. You give people no rational basis for belief, and then when they make up their own that is not good enough for you. You listen to our prayers, yet do not answer, leaving people to rationalise events for themselves. People kill and slaughter over trivial differences in doctrine, and you look on. In the churches and temples raised in your glory, children are mentally and physically abused - in your so-called House! All over the world, throughout history, people have murdered each other for believing the wrong thing about God, for believing in the wrong God, or for not believing in any God. The poorest and most helpless people are relentlessly targeted, being told to give what little they have now, for the promise of eternal bliss later. When a person is at his lowest ebb, that is when the smiling missionaries appear, knowing that his life will probably get better naturally and they can give you the credit. In your name, the ends justify the means as long as souls are saved”. Eve paused for breath, and continued.

“And you? All-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing? You just sit here and you watch it all… Any person in this line, had they your power, would show greater compassion and morality. You may be God, but you are far from Godliness.”

God smiled. “Are you finished? Good. Eve, you have impressed me”. He paused. Eve held her breath, shoulders tensing.

“You have impressed me a great deal. You may have believed in me for all the wrong reasons, but you disbelieved for the right reasons. You led a good life, and used the intelligence I give to everybody in the correct way. Even though you came to a conclusion about me that was hopelessly wrong, you came to it in a way that cannot be faulted. You may pass into paradise, Eve, with my blessing.”

Eve did not step forward. Instead, she spoke once more. “No, I will not”.

“No? You refuse Heaven? You defy my will?” The smile had left God’s face again.

“Do you think I would want to spend one more minute, let alone eternity, in your company? You allow people to suffer, sometimes for their entire lives, for no purpose, and then judge them on their reaction. You hide yourself from the world and allow your creations to persecute each other over differing interpretations of the lack of evidence. You see all the pain and ignorance caused in your name, and just sit there as this queue grows daily? And then you have the audacity to punish good people for believing in you ‘for the wrong reasons’?”

“Eve. Enough of this. The gates to Paradise are open to you. Be silent now, and enter.”

“No. If it is a choice between oblivion and an eternity with a monster like you, I gladly choose oblivion. I ask only one thing, before you destroy me.”

“And what is that?” asked God, getting impatient.

“That, if you can, you look me in the eyes as you do it.”

Shortly afterwards, the next person in the queue stepped towards the top of the mountain, and Judgment.

This is way too long for a single post, I think. I will leave my comments to my next entry.

Not so Current Affairs: Homosexuality

I was having one of my thinking sessions again and I remembered a suggestion from a friend of mine. He thought that I should post the letter I sent to TODAY back in September 2008.

It was about Section 377A of the Penal Code and homosexuality in Singapore.

On 8 September, there was article in the newspaper that was against the particular legislation. As seen here.

The following day, 9 September, two letters in Commentary were published. One against and one supporting the idea/article. Found here.

The letter that was for the legislation caught my eye. It reeked of religious beliefs (which is a crock of shit) and taking personal offense. None of the arguments presented was even a tad bit convincing. For your convenience, here it is:

MR HO Kwon Ping is wrong to propose the acceptance of gays into Singapore society because accepting a gay lifestyle would have a tremendous impact on society as a whole in terms of religious beliefs, social well-being and families.

As a Christian, I oppose legalising a gay lifestyle in Singapore because it’s against my beliefs. As a father of three teenagers, I care because I don’t want my children to be affected by such a lifestyle. Imagine if we allow the acceptance of such a lifestyle in Singapore. What next? Legalise same sex marriages? Legalise adoption of children for gays? Where are we as a socially-conservative society heading towards?

Soon gays will claim the right for social acceptance in all areas including education, welfare et cetera. What effect will this have on the next generation of children and parents who wish that their children will grow up normally and produce children in the normal course of their being?

The only strong contention in Mr Ho’s proposal is the so-called gay leading edge in the “creative class”. Doesn’t our society have many other people to develop and nurture? Why are we so eager to promote creative class talent in Singapore? So that we can become a more tolerant society to accept whatever lifestyle these bring? Definitely no.

I would like to borrow a similar argument by Attorney-General Walter Woon regarding the Human Organ Transplant Act (Hota). In “None above the law” (Sept 8), he said: “If Dr Lee (Wei Ling) disagrees with Hota, she is at perfect liberty to campaign to have it amended ... But until Parliament amends or repeals the Hota and the Oaths and Declarations Act, they remain the law of Singapore.”

If anyone disagrees with the law for gays as enacted by Parliament, he/she is at perfect liberty to campaign to have it amended ... But until Parliament amends or repeals the law of Singapore for gays, it remains the law of Singapore.

I thought about it and decided to have a go at writing a letter to TODAY. I doubted it would be published but it sure was fun to think & write about it. My letter looked like this:

Mr Chan is trying to mislead people with a piece of logical fallacy. He is attempting to establish a false dichotomy. The abolishing of the anti-gay law does not necessarily follow that the government will encourage homosexual behavior. His worries that the abolishment will lead to legalising gay marriages and adoption of children by gay couples is unfounded.

As such, I think that government should remain neutral on this issue unless there are genuine reasons to criminalize gays.

Religious beliefs should not have any say about state laws. We should not distort/establish the laws of our nation to adhere to the beliefs of Bronze Age mythology. If there is genuine reason against gays then let's hear them. But religious beliefs should not and should never be one of them.

Suppose that there is hypothetical religion where its followers must be homosexual and must have anal intercourse every Sunday because of a particular religious dogma that they adhere to. Should the government allow such activities on the account that they are religious beliefs or ban the religion because of genuine reasons against homosexuality. By the same token, other religious beliefs should not be the basis for disagreement, be it for or against the laws of the state.

If there isn't any reason apart from religious beliefs or personal reasons to take offense, then I believe it would be quite reasonable for the government to remain neutral on this issue. It should neither deliberately oppose nor encourage such behaviors.

So what are the genuine arguments? There should not be laws against harmless personal activities that are out public sight.

Too "offensive" for TODAY, I guess. Bleh.

They did publish 4 letters the next day with regards to this discussion. 3 for the legislation and 1 against. See them here and here. Looks like bias to me... Some pretty revolting comments. I couldn't give a damn to write another reply (they don't seem to be listening).

Anyways, I posted about this on the forum back then. You can take a look at the responses here.

What do you think?

New Year Resolution

No more Mr. Nice guy. I don't want to hide any more. I am sick and tired of self censorship when I'm around religious folks. Why should I? Why should I give a damn if that religious guy over there is going to get "hurt" because of my opinions about his non-existent deity.

Religion has somehow conned us into respecting it automatically. You can criticize anything in the world except religion but it doesn't give any valid reasons why it is so. I think Douglas Adams made the point very nicely. I shall quote him from Richard Dawkin's book, A Devil's Chaplain (Section 3.5, Time to Stand Up):

Now, the invention of the scientific method is, I'm sure we'll all agree, the most powerful intellectual idea, the most powerful framework for thinking and investigating and understanding and challenging the world around us that there is, and it rests on the premise that any idea is there to be attacked. If it withstands the attack then it lives to fight another day, and if it doesn't withstand the attack then down it goes.

Religion doesn't seem to work like that. It has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. What it means is, 'Here is an idea or a notion that you're not allowed to say anything bad about; you're just not. Why not? - because you're not!'

If somebody votes for a party that you don't agree with, you're free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down, you are free to have an argument about it. But on the other hand if somebody says, 'I mustn't move a light switch on a Saturday', you say, 'I respect that.'

The odd thing is, even as I am saying that I am thinking, 'Is there an Orthodox Jew here who is going to be offended by the fact that I just said that?' But I wouldn't have thought, 'Maybe there's somebody from the left wing or somebody from the right wing or somebody who subscribes to this view or the other in economics' when I was making the other points. I just think, 'Fine, we have different opinions'. But the moment I say something that has something to do with somebody's (I'm going to stick my neck out here and say irrational) beliefs, then we all become terribly protective and terribly defensive and say, 'No, we don't attack that; that's an irrational belief but no, we respect it.'

Why should it be that it's perfectly legitimate to support the Labour party or the Conservative party, Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows - but to have an opinion about how the Universe began, about who created the Universe ... no, that's holy? What does that mean? Why do we ring-fence that for any other reason other than that we've just got used to doing so?

There's no other reason at all, it's just one of those things that crept into being and once that loop gets going it's very, very powerful. So, we are used to not challenging religious ideas, but it's very interesting how much of a furore Richard creates when he does it! Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it because you're not allowed to say these things. Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn't be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn't be.

That being said, I will not be deliberately offensive. I will not incite an argument for the sake of it. I will still respect the person and his beliefs but only to the extent that I respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children are smart.

That's my new year's resolution. No more self censorship. I will talk about it when I want to.

Speaking of new year resolutions, my previous one was pretty successful. I haven't ate shark's fins for 2 to 3 years now. I'm sticking to this for the many years to come.

A new year begins

The year 2008 has ended and the new year of 2009 begins.

Personally, the year 2008 was by far the most eventful in my life. The three most notable events: CPTC, SIP and recognizing my atheism.

CPTC refers to the Chemical Process Technology Centre where I received training in Chemical Engineering along with the rest of the cohort. It was amazing. It was interesting. It was fun. The shift training absolutely rocks. Even until now, I cannot forget the night shift when my team had to do troubleshooting. Yea, we broke the record. The experience blew my mind away.

SIP - Student Internship Program. I was sent off to the Nanyang Technological University with Jonathan for this 4 month program. We got our taste of working life as laboratory assistants. It kinda rocks for the first day then it sucked from there. LOL. I had to do a 40 day long experiment and do the same set of tests everyday. Really harmful to your sanity. BUT, I did learn alot.

Through SIP, I met and became friends with Jonathan. At the beginning, you could say he is somewhat of a lapsed christian? I'm not sure. Nonetheless, I was able to discuss with him about religion when I was in the process of "discovering" my atheism. I would sometimes offer little tidbits about evolution when I was reading Richard Dawkins' books. Perhaps his beliefs were changing - I don't know - but in no time, he got the Gospel of Flying Spaghetti Monster. He loves the Pirate Fish. Oh! And this funny guy loves to call me "Boss!". LOL.

My becoming a "full-blown" atheist was largely triggered by the SIP. But not by virtue of the SIP itself but the loads of free time I gained because I had to travel a long distance to work. Two hours each day on the train made it incredibly boring without any entertainment. I got "The God Delusion" first. Then in no time, I got "God is not great", "The End of Faith" followed by "The Ancestor's Tale" and more. By the end of SIP, I have read almost all of Richard Dawkins' books.

I was short of the "River Out of Eden" and "The Blind Watchmaker". But Jonathan got me the latter 3 days ago. So, in standard Singlish, I want to thank him for the book again: "Jon ar, thanks hor."

I would also like to thank all the people who made the year a fruitful one for me. Oh and screw god. (Sorry, couldn't help it)

In this new year, may we work to make the world a little better. I shan't dare hope for world peace yet. For I think it is impossible to achieve world peace any day if religion stays around.

Every step is worth a little something. Make it count.