My Valedictory Speech

2-3 weeks ago, I was told that I was shortlisted to give valedictory speech. Fortunately, and unfortunately at the same time, I will not be giving the speech.

So, I'm going to post it here since it's not going to be used.

After three academic years, today is the culmination of all our efforts, determination and commitment that we have invested. Here we are. We are graduates.

While we savor our moment of accomplishment, let’s not forget how it all started and how we’ve got here. Reaching back in our memory, we can see mental images of our first day in Temasek Polytechnic: unfamiliar places, unknown faces and unaccustomed rules. This anesthetic of unfamiliarity wore off as we mustered the courage to make new friends, as we learnt to move from lectures to tutorials and as we understand everything a little more.

We’d have to thank our school and lecturers that made our journey possible. Many thanks for the various learning opportunities that we were given. Problem based learning is one example wherein independent research and understanding was encouraged. But who could forget the little voice within that went “Oh crap” when our lecturers informed us that we’re going PBL on this one. What about the enlightening experience that we’ve received through our student internship program. Having being exposed to real-life situations, our acquired on-job experiences and interactions at the workplace would be an invaluable asset to our future.

Besides gaining knowledge through the academics and practicals, I am sure we have all grown in character as well. Every instance can be a test of our character and in turn, move and shape us; Instances such as project discussions, competitions for CCA, community involvement, quizzes, exams or just a long relaxed chat with a group of friends. There are always ups and downs on any journey. Disappointments and failures occur and we learn to handle them a little better with the help of one’s friends or by one’s self. They, thus, become part of what we have come to be. Having reached here today is a testament to our achievements.

As apprentices of Science, we’re all going to travel our own paths in life. Some of us are going for further education, some of us will have to serve the country before continuing on our paths, and some of us will join the workforce as researchers, technicians or technologists and etc. Perhaps the current recession may be a subject for worry, but I believe we all have the potential to survive this. We can persevere.

Personally, I believe that the appetite for knowledge and the desire to learn is of importance in life. This may be also the very reason why some of us are even here in the first place. I would like to read an excerpt from a book titled Unweaving the Rainbow which is written by, my personal idol, Richard Dawkins.

“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with colour, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked -- as I am surprisingly often -- why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn't it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?”

To learn and to discover and to enjoy being part of the world in which we live. Using the knowledge which we have gained, we strive to build our own futures and collectively to better humanity. That would be my personal message to everyone.

Before I end my speech, I would like to express on behalf of us graduands our gratitude. To the school as a whole, thank you for the opportunities and for these three years well spent. To all our lecturers, our heartfelt appreciation for your patience and guidance in imparting us your knowledge and for going all those extra miles. To our parents, our deepest gratitude for your love and support. And most importantly, a sincere thanks to all of our friends for their company on this journey.

Dear graduates, may we all succeed in life.

Thank you.

Hah, someone might know who is the author of this blog now.

Do you know?

I decided to pick out some of interesting facts from the book "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin.

Limbs and Genes
A gene, named
Sonic Hedgehog, is involved in the sculpting of the limbs of all tetrapods (which are homologous structures). Despite being so different from tetrapods, cartilaginous fish (such as sharks and skates) can be induced with the same effect by a mammalian version of the Sonic Hedgehog protein. I think Neil's conclusion of that particular chapter says lot, so I'm going to quote the book directly:

...What does it mean for the problem we looked at in the first 2 chapters - the transition of fish fins into limbs? It means that this great evolutionary transformation did not involve the origin of new DNA: much of the shift likely involved using ancient genes, such as those involved in shark fin development, in new ways to make limbs with fingers and toes.

But there is a deeper beauty to these experiments on limbs and fins. Tabin's lab used work in flies to find a gene in chickens that tell us about human birth defects. Randy used Tabin's lab discovery to tell us something about our connections to skates. An "inner fly" helped find an "inner chicken," which ultimately helped Randy find an "inner skate." The connections among living creatures run deep.

The History of Teeth
The hardness of our teeth and bones is the result of the mineral hydroxyapatite within the tissue matrix. This material's history in the bodies of animals stretches back to the ancient jawless fish, Conodonts, in the oceans 250 to 500 million years ago. These fish had no hard bones - Teeth came before hard bones. That first hard body parts arose to eat other creatures rather than for armour for defense.

Ostracoderms were fish with bony-head skeletons. These critters had a head region made of a bony plate like an armour. Looking at the bony armour under the microscope comes a surprise. It is made of thousands of fused teeth - a version of teeth was commandeered by evolution to be used as armour.

Whales and Smells
Olfactory receptor genes may be classified into two categories - smelling in air and smelling in water. Not surprisingly fishes have water-based ones and terrestrial animals such as mammals and reptiles have air-based ones.

Here comes the interesting bit: The transition from land back to sea is written down in the genome of cetaceans (whales and dolphins). These creatures no longer use their nasal passages for smelling. They have been modified into blowholes for breathing only. The olfactory receptor genes for air-based smelling in their genome are all present but knocked out by mutations. The selection pressure has disappeared for these genes as their function is no longer critical for survival.

What about humans? 300 of our thousand olfactory receptor genes has been knocked out by mutations. Quoting the book:

...humans do have a sense of smell, so why have so many of our odor genes been knocked out? Yoav Gilad and his colleagues answered this question by comparing the genes among different primates. He found that primates that develop color vision tend to have large number of knocked-out smell genes. The conclusion is clear. We humans are part of the lineage that has traded smell for sight. We now rely on vision more than on smell, and this is reflected in our genome. In this trade-off, our sense of smell was de-emphasized, and many of our olfactory genes became functionless.

About balls...
Here's something interesting about guys.

Do you know that in sharks, their testes are way up inside their bodies - above their liver and close to their heart? Guess what, even in humans, the testes of males were there too. It is a relic of our evolutionary and developmental history. When males are still developing in their mother's womb, the testes make their descent from above the liver and down to the scrotum. Because of this, the sperm cord takes an absurd route - from the testes up to the waist, over the pelvis and then down to the penis.

There's much more interesting stuff in the book of course and with more detail. Some are just too long or complicated to summarize here.

Thoughts on Souls

I don't accept supernatural explanations - They have no evidence for them. The same goes with the concept of a soul.

Generally, it is thought that the soul represents our consciousness - The "ghost" in the body. Apparently, when we die, our souls are supposed to leave our bodies to go to heaven, to be banished to hell or to wander the earth.

It seems almost intuitive to some to think that a soul exist within them. That they are that soul within, trapped in this body till death do they part.

I, on the other hand, think that the concept is completely ridiculous. And I have a couple of questions that, I think, would raise doubt in the concept of a soul.

Can souls see?
If one had any knowledge about basic body anatomy, one should realize that the senses are tied to sensory organs and the brain.

Take the sense of sight for example. The eyes are required to collect light from the environment - focusing the image, regulating light intensity, pointing at the desired direction - for the brain to process. Light falls on the photoreceptor cells, is then absorbed by the opsins (proteins in the cells) which uncoils, and that leads to a signal being fired to the brain via the optical nerves. The brain receives the signals and generates a 3D model of our surroundings in our minds so to speak.

That is how we see. If any part of the system is missing, we see nothing.

How does a soul see anything then? Arguably, it could see what the brain sees while still in the body. What about after death? Does the soul become blind?

How could it see? The soul is supposed to be immaterial. So where does light reflect, refract or be absorbed? How is the light even useful without a brain to generate a model with?

The same goes for all our senses.

How does a soul touch without skin? There aren't nerves to transmit signals. There isn't a brain to receive or process them. Being immaterial, how does a soul touch material matter?

How does a soul smell without the necessary olfactory organs? How does the molecular key and lock function with a immaterial nose? How is molecules even directed to the nose without the respiratory system? Random diffusion?

How does a soul taste without a tongue? How is food supposed to elicit a signal in the tongue without contact?

How does a soul hear without the ear, both inner and outer? How does sound energy transmit from the air to the immaterial eardrums? Is there eardrums at all? Then how does a soul change vibrations in the air into a meaningful sound?

How does a soul move?
Mobility is enabled by our motor systems. Muscles, bones and nerves interplay to enable movement.

If the soul retains its human form, what then is the purpose of a human shape that has no function?

If the soul is formless (commonly described as being an "energy"), how does that move then? Does it float and propelled by currents like jellyfish in the sea?

If soul has autonomous mobility, what are the mechanisms? Does it conform to the laws of physics? If it does not, why is it an exception?

Does a soul have memories?
Memories reside in the brain. Exactly where and how, I am not completely sure. Science works to solve this. Nonetheless, studies have shown that damage or trauma to the brain can cause memory lost. Damage of the hardware (brain) results in damage in the software (memory).

This directly contradicts the idea that the soul holds memories. If the soul is separate from the body, why should this be the case? Why would damage to the brain cause memory lost in the soul?

In addition, how does an immaterial soul store memory?

Since memory resides in the brain, wouldn't a departing soul be memory-less? Then what is a soul for? Going to heaven without memories... seems pointless to some extent.

Just food for thought
Oh well, these are just some of my thoughts. All may just be "mind crap" - Just some of the stuff I ponder when my mind wanders.

In any case, postulating (or simply asserting) that souls exist is irrational. We have no evidence and no reason to think they exist.

Invoking God in Science

God has been invoked many times throughout history. When humanity was temporarily confounded by natural phenomenons, we invoked god as the explanation. As time went past, some curious mind decides to investigate, finds the real answer and removes god from his gaps. This is seen time and time again in history. And it happened to the greatest minds in science as well.

Having finally gotten off my lazy arse and watched Session 2 of Beyond Belief 2006, I now understood the history of the God of the Gaps better. In the first 40 minutes of the video, Neil deGrasse Tyson gave that presentation.

The religious seem to have the idea that when scientists study the natural world, they would find god. In reality, the opposite is true.

As scientists discovers more and more about the universe, god is relegated to a smaller and smaller role. Every instance in history where god was invoked to "explain," he was eventually removed when predecessors decides to seek for the truth. I believe Neil deGrasse Tyson makes this point really obvious in his presentation.

Are we not reasonable in being cautious about (if not hostile towards) invoking god as an answer at all?

Renaming our ignorance god does absolutely nothing for our pursuit of knowledge. It leads to an end for our intellectual pursuit if we are to remain satisfied with god, the massive non-answer. This, without a doubt, is actively harmful to our survival and well being.

Atheism and Agnosticism

Theism and Atheism, Gnosticism and Agnosticism
Theism is the belief in the existence of god(s). Simply put, a theist is a person who has accepted the proposition "God exist."

Atheism is the rejection of theism. That is, an atheist is a person who rejects the proposition "God exist." Note that it is simply a rejection of theism - It does not necessarily mean that an atheist accepts the opposing proposition that "God does not exist."

This distinction is made by weak atheism and strong atheism. Weak atheism is only the rejection of theism. Strong atheism not only rejects theism but accepts the proposition "God does not exist" as well.

That's theism and atheism - These deal with beliefs.
Check out the Wikipedia articles on Theism and Atheism.

Agnosticism deals with knowledge. A gnostic has knowledge of the existence of god(s). An agnostic does not have such knowledge.

Theist/Atheist and Gnostic/Agnostic classification thus creates 4 different categories. To learn about the distinction check out the Iron Chariots Wiki: Atheist vs Agnosticism.

What about me?
I am an agnostic atheist.

I have no knowledge of the existence of a god or gods. I reject theism for there is no evidence to warrant belief in a god.

Belief require evidence. This is necessarily true - otherwise we would be believing in all sorts of things if evidence is not the criteria for belief in matters of fact. Without evidence, belief is not warranted and is irrational. Thus, non-belief is the rational and default position.

To learn about my position, see my entry: Why I don't believe.

Common misconceptions
The following are some of the common misconception/misrepresentation of atheists along with my responses.

Atheists say that "god does not exist." Prove it!

False, on two counts.

Atheism, in its broadest sense, is simply the rejection of theism. Asserting that "god does not exist" is strong atheism which is a subset (and minority) of atheists.

Having clarified that most atheists are weak atheists, it is notable that the burden of proof lies on the theists. The theist who makes the claim should back up his claim with evidence. If others rejects his claim, they are correct and is not required to produce evidence of the contrary (especially if they are not asserting god does not exist).

In fact, rational atheists (atheists who are rationalists/naturalists) are not strong atheists (in most of the common definitions of god).

Atheists believe in the Big Bang and Evolution. They think we came from nothing.

Firstly, atheism does not necessitate the belief in the Big Bang theory and the theory of evolution.

Secondly, scientific theories does not require belief (faith) in the religious sense. Scientific theories are accepted based on the evidence and the knowledge/trust in the integrity of the scientific community. This applies to most rational atheists.

Third. Believing "we came from nothing" is a misconception of the Big Bang theory.

If god didn't create the universe then there is no purpose to the universe. So if there's no purpose in life, why don't atheists just kill themselves.

Purpose need not be intrinsic to the universe. However it does not follow that we should commit suicide. Rational atheists typically do not believe in gods or afterlife. As a result, we think that this is the one and only shot at life we have and thus we treasure our lives.

I think a quote from Richard Dawkins, in his book "Unweaving the Rainbow", can shed some light on this point:

“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with colour, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked -- as I am surprisingly often -- why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn't it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?”

It's obvious that god created the universe.

No. It is only obvious if you're brainwashed into theism. If not, you have fundamentally flawed understanding of the scientific method or a poor understanding of science in general.

Atheists are immoral or have no reason to be moral because they don't believe in god.

Obviously false. I've addressed this in a previous entry: Human Morality.

Any more common slanders?

What would Jesus NOT do?

Hmm...... This video by NonStampCollector got me thinking a bit.

If you're going to convince people that you're the son of god, there's a lot of things you can do. If Jesus was indeed god, he only did a select few miracles. Petty miracles such as turning water into wine and walking on water. Miracles that can only convince people that were around at the time - Not those in the future who "need" "saving" too.

Neither did he overturn his older laws on slavery but you would think that an omniscient god shouldn't need to overturn ANY of his original laws in the first place. His moral instructions wasn't great either - Not even the Sermon on the Mount.

I think I can safely say "I have been immunized against the Christianity meme." There's too much things wrong with it.

Meanwhile, take this "Religion 101 Exam." LOL, try it!

An Atheist Reads the Bible

Another series of videos has caught my attention - "An Atheist Reads the Bible."

To quote 43alley introduction of the playlist for this series: "This new animated series uses a verbatim reading from lesser-known stories from the Bible. And by "lesser-known," that means horrible stories that the religious either pretend do not exist, or wish didn't."

Lot's Daughters
The Divine Concept of Righteousness

Sticks and Stones
Petty Punishments

The Child Sacrifice that went through

Enslaving the Biblically correct way

Yay, Yahweh for "moral" authority... Psh.


Special Pleading - The Universe vs God

The Cosmological argument; The First Cause argument.
It goes something like this.

1. Everything has a cause.
2. Nothing can cause itself.
3. A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
4. Therefore, a First Cause (the Uncaused Cause) must exist.

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The Universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the Universe had a cause.
4. That cause, we call god.

That cause, we call foul - That's Special Pleading
The objection is this: If the premise is "everything must have a cause" and yet the conclusion is "There is something that does not have a cause," the argument just contradicted itself.

And why specifically that the universe must have a cause but yet god doesn't need one? Where's difference? Why the exemption from the rule? That's Special Pleading.

In addition, we actually have evidence of the Universe existing. In light of the evidence, our beliefs should only go that far - We've no evidence of god.

And even if we concede that point that god is indeed the first cause, his identity is still non-specific. Is he/she/they/it even one of the theistic gods?

The Iron Chariots Wiki - Uncaused Cause

Big Bang and the Big Misconception
One absolutely moronic claim made by some theists is: Atheists believe that everything came from nothing. False.

This retarded claim most likely stem from a misconception of what the Big Bang Theory states. And since most rational atheists accept scientific discoveries, the misconception is heaped onto us.

The Big Bang theory does not state that the nothing exploded and thus the universe is born. The theory states that, based on current evidence, tracing back in time, there was a time when everything was compressed into a tiny, dense singularity. This singularity expanded rapidly and gave rise to the current state of our universe.

Nowhere does it mention that there was nothing. Current evidence ends at the singularity. Whether this singularity was created or not is unknown, it is ludicrous to assert that one is case when there are more possibilities than those.

As part of my usual video whoring habit, I'd recommend this series by Potholer54 - From Big Bang to Us - Made Easy

Human Morality

A frequent accusation from theists is that atheists cannot be moral because they don't believe in god. This stems from the concept that god is the author of morality and thus the two are intrinsically tied.

Another similar (but more condescending) accusation acknowledges that most atheists are moral but claims that atheists have no basis for morality. Again, this stems from the theistic concept that morality is based on god.

Thus, the Argument from Morality. And I think that the entire concept is flawed.

Euthyphro Dilemma
The problem with god as the moral authority is condensed into the following question:

Is that which is good commanded by God because it is good,
or is it good because God commands it?

In the former, god essentially has nothing to do with morality. If an action is morally correct, god, being good, commands it. If an action is morally incorrect, god will not command it. As such, god is simply being a messenger. He does not set the moral standards - he merely following them. If this is the case, morality has nothing to do with a belief in god. One can be moral if they investigated the principles behind them.

In the latter, god dictates morality. He is free to decide what is good or bad - there is no standards to adhere to. As such, morality dictated by god would be arbitrary.

Hypothetically, god could have easily commanded that rape or murder is morally correct. At this point, theists jump to their deity's defense by claiming that "God is righteous/good and will not command like such." Really? The god of the old testament did command rape and murder. In fact, he also set laws for slavery. Are they then morally correct?

If one acknowledges that rape, murder and slavery are morally incorrect, that would seem to go against the old testament account of this "righteous/good" god. If this is the case, isn't this judgment made based on some other standard that is not the bible? Which brings us to the conclusion in the former question in the dilemma.

See the Iron Chariots Wiki - Euthyphro Dilemma.

Morals from an evolutionary perspective
Before I continue, I should clarify a frequent misunderstanding about evolution and morality. Science and the Theory of Evolution makes no claims on what is moral. The consequences of Social Darwinism is frequently heaped onto the theory as if they were related. They are not.

Explaining how stuff works does not dictate how we should act. The theory of gravity says that jumping off a building will result in falling to your death but it does not imply that we should all throw ourselves off buildings. Same with the theory of evolution - Survival of the fittest does not imply we should kill weak people (and even this is a misunderstanding of the theory).

Using the theory of evolution, the emergence of basic rules in morality can be explained. For example, animals in general do not run around committing murder.

Think of two hypothetical tribes of animals - One with no desire to commit murder and the other with an inclination to murder another tribes mate. Naturally, the tribe with the inclination to kill its members will decline rapidly. Organisms that show no inclination to kill its own species will stay alive to propagate.

That's just a simplistic example. For more complex concepts such as how altruism may arise by evolution, I'd recommend The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.

Empathy and Rationality
One does not require a god to dictate morality. We have the tools to understand morality and to act morally. They are essentially empathy and rationality. A bit of "heart" and a bit of brains is pretty much all you need to start investigating moral issues.

While atheists are sometimes accused of having no reason to be moral, it seems that the position that theists hold is even shakier when we dig deep into that claim. In essence, such theists are saying that god is the only reason to be moral. If they ever knew for a fact that god does not exist, nothing would stop them from committing crimes. And if that is the case, I'm glad they go to church or [Insert place of worship].

Apart from god, one of the most powerful reason to be moral is our empathy. Apply the Golden Rule - Just ask yourself: Would like having your stuff stolen? Would like to be murdered? Would you like to be raped? Etc. I am sure most of us would prefer to keep our stuff, stay alive and not be raped. It does not take a lot of reasoning to realize that everyone should act morally for everyone's sake.

Law and Morality
Today's secular laws safeguard the survival and orderliness of the society so as long as they are enforced. Apart from representing the moral stance of its people, laws also ensure the smooth flow of daily activities, prevent abuse and etc.

In essence, the laws of a society are simply the rules that the people of the society agreed to live by. This would be how those laws came into being in the first place.

To establish a cohesive society, its people must agree with the rules. These rules embody the morality of its people. As beings with empathy and reason, these rules would include that which is moral. If, for example, an individual disagrees and believes murder is moral, the society as a whole would disagree and remove that individual should he commit the crime. The logic behind this is the basis for our laws, enforcers and prisons.

One last thing
An unusual claim by theists is that even non believers are moral because god "placed his moral laws in our hearts." This can be disputed on several levels. The Euthyphro Dilemma still applies. The fact that, for example, even christians do not adhere to the 613 commandments in their bible disputes the claim (there's a defense to this objection - but it fails as well).

I for one do not and will not adhere to the "morality" of the old testament god - he's utterly disgusting.

I'd recommend this series by holysinecure which questions biblical morality

Evolution - Fact and Theory

Fact AND Theory?
One of the common misunderstandings that people have with evolution is semantics. There's no error here - Evolution is both a fact and a theory.

The fact that is evolution refers to the phenomenon of evolution - The change in frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next, ie; descent with modification. This has been observed both in nature as well as in the laboratories.

The Theory of Evolution seeks to explain the Fact of Evolution. In Science, a theory is a comprehensive framework for describing, explaining and making falsifiable predictions about related sets of phenomena based on rigorous observation, experimentation and logic. Saying "Evolution is just a theory" reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is about.

The Evidence
Evolution is described as the unifying theory in biology. Different scientific disciplines all point to same conclusion: Evolution. Various lines of evidence that include: Genetics, Phylogenetics, Paleontology, Morphology, Embryology, Molecular & Cellular biology etc.

The overwhelming amount of evidence for evolution cannot be described within a single blog entry. I'd suggest visiting the list of playlists that I've compiled: Here.

To learn about the evidence for common descent - See this article: 29+ Evidence for Macroevolution

If you're interested in Transitional Forms, read this article - Transitional Vertebrate Fossils or try these videos:
Evolution is REAL Science #4 and #5
9th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism

What about Phylogenetics and nested hierarchies:
10th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism
Nested Hierarchies

On Speciation, check out:
11th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism
How Evolution Works 7 - Part 1 & Part 2

Here are some simple and frequently used examples of evidence for evolution:
Human Chromosome 2 Fusion
Our faulty Vitamin C gene
Endogenous Retroviruses, ERV

Scientific Predictions
As with any scientific theories, the Theory of Evolution is capable of making predictions. One of the most spectacular prediction was the finding of Tiktaalik. Using the theory, researchers predicted the type of features Tiktaalik is expected to have, where it could be found and the age of the rocks it should be found in.

Check out this presentation by Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish (Tiktaalik): Introducing Tiktaalik, Your Inner Fish Part 1 and Part 2.

On accurate predictions by the Theory of Evolution, see: How Evolution is Scientific - Part 2

Numerous other fossils that were found confirm the predictions made by the theory. For a list of them, see: Evolution is REAL Science #5

Modern Applications
Something that most people don't realize is that the theory of evolution is being used in our daily lives. I've heard ridiculous remarks like: "Gravity is real, it affects me daily. But evolution have nothing to do with me at all...... blah blah, evolution is not true."

The theory of evolution is utilized in the realm of medicine. Certain actions we take with regards to antibiotics is because of our understanding of evolution. Our handling of HIV and genetic diseases has also been enhanced by our understanding of evolution. Heck, the theory is even involved in agriculture and conservation efforts.

I'd recommend browsing through these: How does evolution impact my life?

Overwhelming Arrogance Vs Overwhelming Evidence
People deny the theory of evolution even before getting acquainted with the evidence are morons. It's simply irrational - How does one declare something to be false without even knowing what it is about.

In spite of the evidence, yet without learning about them, we have creationist sheeps and shepherds running around propagating lies about evolution.


All too frequently, atheists and scientists are the ones being slammed with the label "arrogant" for being "know-it-all's." We've seen the evidence, understood the theory and knew of its implications. When we make the claim "God did not create the lifeforms as we know them", it isn't an atheistic assertion. It's a fact - Evolution occurred.

Excuse me. Look in the mirror. Evolution deniers are the ones being arrogant. Who are you to claim that all those scientists who spent years on scientific education and working in their respective fields are wrong? Who are you say the theory is false when you haven't had the littlest clue of what the theory is? Who are you to deny the works of all those scientists when you don't even know the mountains of evidence and literature behind the theory?

That would be the height of intellectual arrogance. This might be simply because of the Skewed views of Science or worst, wilful ignorance with an intent of deceit.

Science and the Incredulous

The Argument from Personal Incredulity.
By the way, incredulity is defined by the dictionary as:

in⋅cre⋅du⋅li⋅ty [in-kri-doo-li-tee]
the quality or state of being incredulous; inability or unwillingness to believe.

The inability or unwillingness to believe is highlighted in the following typical responses.

"I don't believe I came from monkeys; I'd rather believe I came from Adam and Eve."

"If humans came from apes, why are there still apes around?"

"It's silly to believe that nothing exploded and then we came into existence."

If you've learnt about the Big Bang theory and the Theory of Evolution, you would have already noticed the misconceptions and errors in thinking exhibited by those statements.

Skewed Views of Science
Science is seriously misunderstood by the general public. In general, these are the types of errors in perceptions:
Science provides absolute truths.
Science always changes; we shouldn't trust it.
Science is just another belief system.

I'd highly recommend watching this video:

Rejection before Comprehension
This is the fate of the Theory of Evolution in the minds of religious sheeps. Even before being acquainted with the theory and its supporting evidence, it is rejected on the basis of religious dogma. That is tragic.

Having seen the responses by theists who reject evolution, one thing is very clear - They haven't got a clue what Evolution is (See my previous post - The Gems of Creationism). Often, they are fed caricatures of evolution by their own churches. Lies to propagate more lies.

If you find that you are rejecting scientific theories even before you understood them, something is seriously wrong. No established theories is without evidence.

Have you ever asked yourself - "Why am I rejecting this when the scientific community accept it as true?" A scientist isn't some bugger down the street who pulls theories out of their asses. They are trained professionals who studied the field in which they are in for years. They have seen the evidence. They have learnt the theories and the rationale behind them.

How are you rationally justified in rejecting their theories without even learning about them in the first place?

Our inability to understand the theories does not mean that the theories are false. That would be faulty logic.

Abiogenesis, Life and Gods

A frequent and unusual question that believers tend to bring up when "proving" god is on the origins of life.

"Where do you think we came from?"

"How do you think we were created?"

"I don't believe we arose by chance."

Frankly, I think this sort of questions is kinda redundant when discussing the existence of god. I'll explain...

Abiogenesis is the process and the study of how life arose from inanimate matter. Some may find the idea itself implausible, citing that it is impossible for non-life to create life. Bullshit. If you know what life is, you would realize that organisms are essentially a unique arrangement of chemicals and chemical reactions.

Abiogenesis is still in its early stages - There isn't any established theories yet. Right now, there are several competing hypotheses and research is still under way. One such hypothesis is the RNA World Hypothesis.

At this moment in time, Science do not have the complete answer to the origins of life. All we know is this: It is possible that inanimate matter produce life but we don't know exactly how.

Destroying the False Dichotomy
At this moment, some theists may jump and say "AH HA! You don't know how life arose! Obviously, God did it."

To which I reply, Moron.

Not understanding the origin of life does not automatically imply it had to be god. That would be a false dichotomy.

Besides, god is the massive non-answer. If god is defined as the creator of life and life exist, thus the conclusion is god did it - You've just engaged in circular reasoning.

Here's a video that makes the point:
The thing that made the things for which there is no known maker.

Let me say this here. If tomorrow, all the scientists say that all their hypotheses on abiogenesis are wrong, it still does not mean that god did it. The correct response would be I don't know.

Saying "I don't know"
If there is an unexplained phenomenon, it does not imply that cause must be supernatural. The unexplained is simply the unexplained. However improbable or counter-intuitive anything is, it does not require us to jump straight for a supernatural. That is unwarranted and irrational.

Indeed, it may be uncomfortable to not know how life arose or why the universe exist, but such gaps in our knowledge does not grant us the right to attribute it to god. But there is people who do that and hence the term: The God of the Gaps.

Such actions are not harmless, they are actively harmful. If one accepted the god of the gaps as the answer, one stops any attempts to seek the truth.

"I don't know" is not that hard to say - It's an honest response.

Science and Progress in Knowledge
Unusually, some people see "We don't know yet" as a weakness of Science. They are too used to receiving dogmas that assert absolute certainty without evidence.

Science is an active search for truth. It gathers evidence and create hypotheses. It test those hypothesis and when they withstood scrutiny, they are established as theories. The Scientific method is the best tool humanity has to distinguish fact from fantasy.

As an active search for truth, it doesn't have all the answer yet. And the scientific community is simply being honest when it says "We don't know". Compare this with dogmatic baseless assertions that religions make in spite being contradicted in several instances, I'll pick science any day.

Related video: Science, it works!

Caught my attention - Videos!

Recently, quite a number of Youtube videos caught my attention. So I thought I'd recommend some of them.


This video titled "Open-mindedness", created by QualiaSoup, is great. It explains the flawed thinking in believers of pseudoscience who accuse others of being "closed-minded." Something that happens all too often.

I highly recommend that you visit his Youtube channel and watch his other educational videos. In particular:
Instruction Manual for Life
Skewed views of Science
The problem with anecdotes

Evolution is REAL Science

standup4REALscience has recently added two new videos to his series: Evolution is REAL Science. The older 3 videos deals with the history and findings leading up to the establishment of the Theory of Evolution. The fifth video in the series is WAY cool - It shows you the transitional forms and explains briefly. Definitely worth watching.

By the way, the players are set to play the playlist. Click here if the player is too small for your preferences.

An Honest Search for the Truth

After I wrote my previous entry "A morally inferior god", I took interest in videos of related topics on Youtube. I found several but this series is the best in my opinion. This series (incomplete) was created by an ex-christian, holysinecure, who left the religion after thinking seriously about the bible. If you're christian and genuinely interested in learning about disagreements to your religion, watch this.

Click here if the player is too small for your preferences.

Here Be Dragons

Watched this awhile ago. This video is a must watch for beginners in critical thinking and skeptic thought. It discusses the pseudoscience and superstitions that plaqued the modern world and how to be wary of them.

Click here if the player is too small for your preferences.

Origins of the 3 "Great" Monotheistic Faiths

The 3 Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam have at least one thing in common - They trace themselves back to their patriarch, Abraham. So technically, those three religions are worshiping the same god, that is Yahweh, but they have different doctrines about everything else. Although Christianity have the (illogical) concept of the Trinity, all three religions identify themselves as monotheistic - There is only one true god.

So did Yahweh, the alleged creator god, find Abraham one day to begin a succession of events that led to the establishment of religions that regard him as the one and only god? Not that simple.

Ugarit, El and Yahweh
It seems that Yahweh didn't just appear from nowhere. He had to be created somewhere first. And that is the Ugarit religion which predates Judaism.

The Ugarit Yahweh is not some coincidence. There is various aspects that point to the Ugarit religion as being the origins of the Old Testament myths. For example, Ugarit and Israel shared a common literary and linguisitc lineage. Difficult Hebrew words become easier to translate in light of Ugarit texts.

In the bible, it is thought that the words "El" and "Elohim" both refer to Yahweh. However, the discovery of the Ugarit text enhanced our understanding of the old testament text.

Guess what?

Yahweh isn't the creator god in Ugarit. He is just one of sons of the creator god, El. El is a proper name and he is the chief of the Ugarit pantheon. El is refered to as the Creator. The Elohim refers to El's pantheon. Yahweh also has a consort, a goddess, named Asherah.

Ugarit eventually declined but Yahweh was not lost. He was adopted by early Judaism. The religion transformed from polytheistic, to henotheistic and then to monotheistic, Yahweh assimilated El and his characteristics. Much like Horus and Ra in Egyptian religion.

What does this mean?
Sure, this alone does not prove or disprove god. That isn't the point here.

The point is this: The fact Yahweh had such a history cast serious doubts on the monotheistic concept. It questions how much fact there is to the religion - Is Yahweh another arbitrary thing like every other religion on Earth? It seems extremely suspicious that it is human beings who arbitrarily decide how may gods there is and who they are. If god was real, shouldn't it be the other way round?

This probably isn't an argument against gods in general. But it brings up a serious question about the Abrahamic faiths: Why does the alleged one true god have such an unusual history, one that doesn't recognize him to be even at least the top god?

Ugarit and the bible
Summary of the topic on the Atheist Experience blog
Theology article about the topic

Atheist Experience episodes about this
Episode #464
Episode #466
Episode #483

Scripture as bad evidence

Scripture as evidence?
Uh, no.

Written or inspired by god?
Firstly, scriptures are all written by Man. If you think god(s) wrote any of them personally, please go read up some history. Claims that they were inspired by god are unverifiable because (1) inspiration is subjective and (2) they are dead now, no one can check.

Like I said previously on the opening post to this series, evidence for god would be evidence of god manifesting. Scripture is poor evidence for any god simply because it is not necessarily the product of god.

This applies to all religions.

Since I have a tad bit more knowledge about the bible, I'll use it as the example.

The holy book of inconclusive authorship
If you still haven't realized, the bible is a collection of books. And for most parts, the authors are unknown.

For example, none of the old testament was written by Moses himself. They were likely to be at best hearsay written decades after the fact. Is hearsay reliable? After so many years, wouldn't embellishments inevitably occur?

Neither was the New Testament written by Jesus' actual disciples. The four gospels named after Jesus' disciples were written some 100-150 years after Jesus and his disciples were dead. They are second hand accounts. Where's the reliability in that?

What about the embellishments?
(Even it may adhere to the themes of the bible, is it still not an embellishment?)

If the bible is reliable, would you believe that claims of UFO abduction as well? After all, the claimants are alive and are first-hand accounts.

"Scientific" verses as proof of divinity
Seriously, no.

For every scientific truth in the bible, there is a couple of unscientific lie to complement. That is not proof of omniscient. If you're going to keep the hits and ignore the misses, you're cherrypicking your own damn holy book (big book of MCQ, eh?).

I've given an answer to such an argument previously, so I shall quote myself here:

Verses "hinting" scientific knowledge? Frankly, they are usually distorted or required extremely vague interpretations in order for the verse to make sense scientifically. Such "interpretations" have been done several times over by the devout looking for some anchor in reality for their beliefs. Just search Quranic science on Youtube and you probably get a dozen or more "examples".

For any verse to convince anyone that it hints scientific knowledge, it needs to be flat out obvious to anyone who reads it. And when I say scientific knowledge, I mean something big like a theory rather than a simple fact. Stuff like the "Earth is round" is barely substantial and hardly convincing. If a holy book have an entire chapter dedicated to the Atomic Theory, that would be convincing. However, I may not convert right away, more evidence would be required for a skeptic like me.

Not to mention, such bible science or quran science are usually made AFTER science itself have made the discovery. It is an dishonest attempt to frame the discovery to appear as though the "gods" got there first. It would be much more convincing if it was the holy books which prompted a research in science as opposed to framing the discovery as a religious idea after all the research was done.

However, that being said, evidence of god himself would be more convincing as opposed to hints of scientific knowledge in a 2000 year old book.

[Click here for original post]
[Take a look here (#699 & 700) if you're interested in some of the verses I've had to deal with]

Historicity Vs Divinity
Evidence that the events in the bible took place is not proof of god. Not even close.

First and foremost, let's deal with the old and ridiculous argument that goes: "The places in the bible are real - they prove that it all happened, god is real." Excuse me? That is evidence? By the same logic, we can deduce that Spiderman exist in real life because New York exist.

Events in the bible is not intrinsically linked to god. The wars and destruction, rapes and sacrifices, slavery and etc do not require god to occur. Ever noticed that all sides of a war say god is on their side but only the victorious "really" have god "on their side."

Even if historical evidence reveal that Jesus existed (although it is still highly debatable) but nothing has verified his divinity. The evidence where it really matters, that is Jesus' divinity, is lacking. Where is the extra-biblical evidence? The historians didn't bother writing about any of his miracles?

Canonization of the bible
The process that lead to the canonization of the bible is seemly arbitrary.

Check out a lecture on the history of the biblical canon
(by ACA board member, Matt Dillahunty - former fundamentalist christian)
Powerpoint slides here
Audio here

If you're skeptical of the source (and I think you might), then you can read this really long article.

For these reasons, I do not accept any holy book (in particular, the bible) as evidence of god. Furthermore, scripture is still poor evidence for any god even if accepted.

Why I don't believe

Why I don't believe that there is a god.
The simple answer: No evidence.

Simply put, belief is the acceptance that a proposition is true.
To accept the proposition means to be convinced. And to be convinced, I need evidence.

All too frequently, I'm presented with so-called of evidence
Evidence such as:
The bible, or whatever holy book
The universe
The complexity of life
The morality of humans

I discount all of those. They are not evidence for god.
When the point of contention is whether or not this being exist or not, you cannot enter his alleged products as evidence. If god does not exist, he cannot be the cause of those products. On top of that, there are naturalistic explanations, backed by evidence, for them.

To claim that god exist, evidence of god manifesting is required. In order to determine if something exist or not, we look for its manifestation.

This table, that my computer is sitting on, exist. I can see it. I can touch it. Basically, it's observable. I can perceive its manifestation.

Gravity exist. If I drop my pen, it will fall to the ground. That is the manifestation of gravity.

What about god? We don't have any evidence that god exist. For example, one of god's alleged manifestation is answering prayers. But yet, we find no statistical significance; god isn't answering them - he's doing no better than chance.

My basic stance on belief is this: Belief is not warranted unless sufficient evidence is presented. Since no evidence has been found, the proposition that god exist is not demonstrably true. Belief is not warranted so I hold the default position: disbelief.

Evidence is important for one simple reason; They demonstrate conformity to reality. If you care whether your beliefs are true or not, you must have evidence to back your beliefs. If you just "have faith" and disregard evidence contrary to your beliefs, you don't care about conformity to reality - you believe because you believe because you want to believe.

In the future, I'll touch on the other so-called evidence & arguments for god's existence and explain why I discount them as well.

The Argument from Scripture
The bible (or any other holy book) as poor evidence
A consideration of the origins of the "great" monotheistic faiths
Yahweh as a god unworthy of worship even if he existed

The Argument from Design
Abiogenesis, life and gods
The Argument from Personal Incredulity
Evolution and its denial
Fine Tuned Universe

The Argument from Morality
Morals as a product of humanity not of divinity

The First Cause Argument
Special pleading - The universe vs. god

What do you mean god exist?

One of the episodes of the Atheist Experience that I enjoy most is episode #572.

At first, I thought of trying to transcribe the episode. I failed miserably. And I think people who able to transcribe stuff are amazingly insane (in an admirable way, of course). Way too difficult for me.

Here's the episode:

And here's a really short 5 minutes that I transcribed. Pathetic, I know. It spans 23:53 – 28:56.

Tracie Harris:
Here he is again trying to describe it (God):

"This is the awesome glory of God, I don’t have a clue as to what he is – none whatsoever! This is what makes him so magnificent – because there is nothing in this world that could explain or describe or imagine what his glory is like. We only say 'God' and 'He' because it is the best way for us to identify what we are talking about. But that doesn’t describe what He is like or what He is made of or anything. A 'thing', we can describe. 'God' we cannot."

And let me tell you that the last part of that paragraph is something that most atheists would give a hearty amen to because it does seem like "a thing you can describe but god you cannot" and it also seems like "we don’t know who or what" or, you know, "what we are talking about" or anything about it. So if this is the description that I’m getting back and I’m trying to have a conversation with someone about "God exist" and I can’t even get past "God". I don’t know how to have a conversation.

Matt Dillahunty:
Yea, and... and I... you know, while I wouldn’t have phrase it this way and certainly wouldn’t have start with "this is the awesome glory of God." The idea that you’re saying, I believe in this thing that I can’t possibly understand, I can’t comprehend, I can’t even imagine, I can’t describe, I can’t know anything about. Why would anybody believe in that?

Tracie: Well… What is that?
Matt: What is it that you’re believing in
Tracie: Right.

Matt: How can you say that I can’t comprehend it but I believe it
Tracie: Right.

Matt: I can’t understand it. I can’t describe it. But I believe it.
Right. I mean I don’t know what it is I am supposed to be understanding that you believe when this is the response. Erm. I have no idea what, I mean, if you can’t make sense of it and you can’t understand it. How in the world you can possibly expect to communicate that to someone else?

And what does it say for example if we extend it into what they’re normally talking about where this is a god that created you. And he specifically created you in a manner you’re unable to comprehend, understand, identify and describe or in any way know anything about him.

Now, I realize that not all the believers necessarily fall into this category but if you’re in that category, if you can’t, I mean, if you don’t even know what this thing is and you don’t understand, yet you’re believing it and then eventually you get the justification that I believe it because, you know, he made me, he made everything, that type of thing. Well… erm.. how do you know that, how you know there is any 'there' there? I mean it’s just madness.

Well, basically, it’s the description of nothing. I mean it’s a description of nothing. And then I supposed to talk about it like it’s something. And I don’t know how to do that. And I think that’s what I’m trying to say today is... that there is a definitional divide, I think, between, like, apologists and atheists that… there is no wonder that communication doesn’t happen or it’s so difficult.

When a person that is offering that sort of description for god does not understand the non-information they are providing. They are providing me a whole bunch of words and saying nothing. They’re describing nothing. They have given zero information in that paragraph. They’ve just spent an entire paragraph explaining to me why they can’t explain to me god and yet they want to dialogue with me about god.

Well if I want to have a conversation with someone about god, they have got to be able to tell me what they’re talking about. If you can’t tell me what you’re talking about, there cannot be a conversation. So I would say before you approach somebody to discuss your god, you need to sit and do some reflection and try figure out what you mean by that word, specifically what you mean.

And I also don’t mean what do you think what god does. I mean what do you mean god is. Because what you think god does is really irrelevant until there is, shown to be a god that is. Erm, you can tell me all day long, god creates worlds, god wrote the bible, god… and I cannot confirm any of it because I have no god to go to and examine and say you know what, that’s correct this god did write the bible.

Erm, that’s the other problem that we have with this particular person was the idea that the evidence that was being put forward on behalf of his god’s existence all assume god existed. So you would have the bible put forward and it’s like god created the bible and so here’s the bible and this is evidence for god. But if there is no god then god didn’t created the book so I can’t, you can’t come to me when we’re trying to determine or not whether there is a god and say you’ve got this book that is the product of that god and you want to enter that into evidence for your god. And I should accept it as evidence because it was created by your god. But, well, if the point of contention is whether or not god exist, of course I’m not going to accept that the book was created by god. We need to establish first that there is a god that can create the book. Then we can talk about whether or not he did create the book.