Willful Ignorance

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I debated a friend of mine about theism. He’s working on his masters in pastoral ministry. Me? Well...I’ve read a few verses of the bible, so I’m not qualified to debate him in any way. Most of my knowledge of that historical fiction came from watching the Atheist Experience on YouTube. So my religious knowledge remains rudimentary. If that.

In one of our debates, he condemned the validity of the Theory of Evolution. We argued in circles, and I kept telling him that I was nowhere close to having the knowledge of an evolutionary biologist, let alone a biologist. Needless to say, neither did he. He asked me to read a book that has interviews of scientists who stated that the theory has serious problems that put its validity in serious question. I was a bit shocked to find that there were scientists that doubted evolution. I didn’t know how to argue against that except to read what those scientists objections had been and research to see if they were valid. I then challenged him to speak to an evolutionary biologist who is a believer and get their views on the theory. He declined, stating that he has read enough to know that evolution was not true.

While watching the Atheist Experience, I had come to learn about the Discovery Institute, a creationist organization, which had compiled a list of almost 900 scientists who don’t support evolution. In response, the NCSE, National Center for Science and Education had started Project Steve, honoring the late Stephen Jay Gould, an evolutionary biologist. The project asked scientists who supported the theory to sign their names on its list with one caveat: Only scientists with the name Steve should participate. From the NCSE’s FAQ: Not only Steves (can sign), but also Stephens, Stevens, Stephanies, Stefans, and so forth. Etiennes and Estebans would have been welcome. As of March 9, 2018, there were 1424 signatories.

When I relayed this to the pastor, I mistakenly stated that the NCSE created their own list to mock Discovery’s. So instead of acknowledging that only Steve’s could sign the list, and that that list had surpassed the number on Discovery’s, the pastor lamented the NCSE for mocking the creationist organization.

Now, whoever has the bigger dick, the longer list, doesn’t prove one thing or another. But the point of Project Steve was to show the overwhelming support for evolution by scientists, since only about 1.6% of the US population is so named.

Still, the pastor stood stern and reiterated my need to read his book. I said I would, despite the fact that he wouldn’t take me up on my challenge to him. I told him that I was pretty confident that I could debunk the issues the book presented.

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He said, “It takes a lot of faith for you to make that statement.”

He has a point.

I don’t know what objections were made in that book, but stated that I was confident in debunking them. The reason is simple: there are mountains of evidence for the Theory of Evolution. Mountain ranges worth.

At this point I went quiet, shutting the debate down. For a pastor to use faith against me is farcical. Faith is central to religion. Without it, all religions would evaporate like a mirage in a desert. Faith is the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Hence the idiom blind faith.

And this is why I’m an anti-theist, someone who is against theism. Many religions purport to have all of the answers, but this can negate the need to explore or find the truth. My pastor friend is a prime example. He won’t explore the truth behind evolution because he’s protecting his own world view. And the sad thing is he doesn’t realize it.

I don’t go around proselytizing my atheism. Though, I’m willing to discuss theism because I’m open to having my mind changed. There’s comfort in thinking that an all-powerful being is there to save and provide for us. However, when I learned that every day 21,000 children around the world die before the age of 5, my belief in that being died as well.

I may be told that we cannot know god’s plan. But if this is god’s plan to let 21,000 births happen only to let them die, I’m gonna question the validity of that plan. And I’m gonna question anyone’s prayers for silly things like getting their promotions, or winning the lottery, or having their cancers cured.

Honestly

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I’m an anti-theist. What that means is that I’m against religion for many valid reasons. For example, an ex-girlfriend had gone to her priest and confessed that she had lost her virginity. The priest scolded her, telling her that she had sinned. She never confessed again. Another example is the segregation of people by faith, sexuality, or magic underwear. “If you don’t believe in what we believe, then you’re going to hell!” Think about that for a moment. A serial killer in the U.S. can seek forgiveness from Jesus and be allowed into heaven. But a non-believer will go to hell. That’s fucked up.

So much of religion is based on the idea of faith. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, one of the definitions of faith is: firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Though, theists often vehemently decry the Theory of Evolution, demanding transition bones, blah blah blah. But to believe in god, you must have faith. Hypocritical much?

Because I’ve been watching the Atheist Experience on YouTube, I’ve gained a superficial knowledge of logic and have found a small hobby of talking to theists about their beliefs. I’m under no illusion that I’ll convert them to non-believers. But it’s always fun to challenge their faith. The issue comes when theists aren’t willing to have an honest conversation about it.

I was talking to someone who was very skittish about taking his lord’s name in vain.

“I know there’s a god,” Skittish said.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“I can feel it.”

“Imagine this. You’re walking down a dark alleyway and see a shadow moving behind a dumpster. How do you feel?”

“I feel concerned.”

“Cool. You keep walking and you find that the shadow was just a garbage bag fluttering in the breeze. Now how do you feel?”

“Not concerned.”

“So your feelings aren’t a good pathway to finding the truth since they can lead you astray.”

“But the word feeling is so broad. It can mean anything, blah blah blah...”

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Here was where the dishonesty had happened. I showed that his feeling that god existed can’t be used to show the truth. Feelings can be unreliable. So he diverted the discussion by focusing on something else. I’d wager that if he’d admitted that my argument was right, then he might begin to doubt his faith in some deity. That was why he channeled the subject onto the some vague thing about the meaning of a word. To this day, he likes to muddy words instead of focusing on the subject we’re discussing.

There’s another theist that I talk to, and he commits something called guilt by association fallacy. He spent a lot of time trying to discredit Evolution. I explained that Evolution is both a fact and a theory. He narrowed his eyes at me and started to debate me, and I realized he didn’t understand the difference between fact and theory. So I talked about that. Then he diverted the conversation to how scientists couldn’t be trusted because grant money depends on their results. They’d manipulate the data or ignore evidence that proved their hypothesis wrong to preserve their grants.

I then tried to explain the peer review process and how competitive it is in scientific community. So, if someone wants to make a name for themselves by proving the Theory of Evolution is wrong, for example, then they would garner fame and fortune beyond most people’s dreams. Ignoring what I had said about the peer review process, he continued on the path that some scientists have “cheated”, so science as a whole couldn’t be trusted. Hence, guilt by association fallacy.

I suggested that he talk to a theist who was also an evolutnary biologist and get their point of view. This way they could have an open discussion without having the heaviness of opposing worldviews. Alas, he declined.

Having honest discussions is paramount to growing and learning as a human being. If we’re all about protecting our egos and our beliefs, then we’re never open to new ideas and ways of thinking.

I’m wrong a lot. That’s why I go to my writing group on a weekly basis and have them critique my pages. Otherwise, my writing and story would never improve. I like to say that I’m wrong 50% of the time and am guessing my way through life the other 50%. Life’s too short to worry about being right most of the time. Sometimes making the wrong choices can lead to the right outcome.

Listen to my writing group discuss writing and masturbation on the Uncontained podcast.

Three Men Walk Into a Kitchen

Sitting in a kitchen nook, I watched three men debating whether buying a late model car was a good idea or not. I had little interest in the conversation because I drive a car that is twelve-years old. And I'm mildly surprised it has survived for that long, and it isn't because I'm an Asian driver, but because the car maker isn't known for building long-lasting automobiles.

"I hate driving a dying model BMW," a successful salesman said.

"Me too," his best friend said and took a drag from his medicinal e-cigarette.

A newlywed man scratched his beard. "But the dealer is giving us a really good deal."

The salesman raised his eyebrows. "Because BMW is releasing a new body shape. But are you OK driving a car that will be out-of-date in seven months?"

"I wouldn't." The best friend toked on his e-cigarette.

The newlywed gazed into the distance as he tried to imagine driving a car on the road that would eventually be filled with newer model BMWs.

Given the theory of evolution, everything is always going to die out to better versions. Unless you believe in a young Earth, then maybe this is a bad analogy.

Nevertheless, the idea of caring about driving a car that would be out-dated is crazy to me. Unless you're the car dealer. At the basis, a car transports people from one place to another, and maybe even more places. OK. Not maybe. But for sure. But as long as the car doesn't break down, does it matter that the car will eventually be eclipsed by a newer model?

Not at all.

It's all in the mind. So, like me, if you don't care about new models, cars that is, then driving an old car will never be a problem. Nor should it be. But if you deeply care about this, that people will drive cars newer than yours, then there's more to it than just a passion about automobiles.

There's a level of insecurity that maybe the person with the newer car is better, or is within the circle of BMW's trust.

There's always someone who's better at fighting, who earns more wealth, who's blah, blah, blah...

But that says nothing about whether you're less than a human. And having the biggest anything doesn't make you more than a human. Unless you're a man, then maybe you should consider becoming an underwear model. Or a porn star.

We live in a world of labels. You can lather as many labels on yourself, but that won't change who you are as a person. Some people may value you more because of it, but do you really want to be liked for the stuff that you have? Or do you want to be like for you?

Praise tha Lawd

Thank tha Lawd tha rain has come!

California has gone through one of the worst droughts in 2014/2015 and the much needed rain has drenched the state with more to come. Thanks El Niño. Or should I thank Gawd? Did She give birth to The Kid? If so, then Gawd is a woman? I mean, if God made man in his/her image, and God created everything, essentially giving birth to it all, then God is a woman. Right?

According to a friend of mine, no.

So my girlfriend and I and another couple had decided to make the trek to the Sierra Mountains. We spend the long New Year's weekend skiing and snowboarding down the groomed mountainsides on pristine white snow. What we see is beautiful: Thick white snow carpeting the never ending mountains.

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On the way back, my friend was schooling his girlfriend about how evolution was really a big conspiracy and that the Earth was young (6000-10,000 years old). I tried not to pay attention because when it came to religion and evolution, I'm pretty ignorant. I know the basics, like there's Gawd and Heysoos, and we was once be a single-celled thang called a single-celled thingybob and den we turned into peeps...baby chicks.

Plus, I'm not a fan of people who argue that science is failing us.

What peaked my interest was that my friend mentioned a tyrannosaurus rex bone had been found with soft tissue still intact within the fossil. "How could that be?" he lamented. "Soft tissue can't survive 65 million years. The Earth is not as old as scientists have said."

I was stumped.

"How can a cat turn into a bird?" he retorted. "How can an alligator evolve into a human? Evolution is a conspiracy. Show me a picture of a bone where a cat turns into a bird? There isn't."

"That's not what evolution says," I chimed in. I tried to tell him that evolution has branches. So the branch of animals that evolved to cats is not likely to evolve to birds. And alligators are not going to evolve into humans.

We continued this stupid debate and then he put the onus on me to provide him with evidence to support the theory of evolution. "Not a picture," he demanded. Actual evidence.

Well...it's not like I carry around a catbird bone. My girlfriend would probably think I'm weird. She already thinks that, so I guess if I had a catbird bone, it wouldn't hurt to carry the catbird bone around. Maybe wear the birdcat bone around my neck. Or was it my neck bone connected to my head bone?

So I turned it around and asked him for evidence that God was real. He mentioned the Bible. Didn't humans write that, I countered. It was inspired by God. How do you know that? There are statues with the name David with writing on it. So a statue is your evidence that God inspired humans to write the Bible down on paper? There are statues all over the world that contain the same writing, my friend offered.

In summary, I had to produce real world evidence to support the theory of evolution, the catbird bone, and all he had to do was point to these statues. In other words, he could have second or third or fifty-second hand resources, but I couldn't point to the work scientists have done on the subject.

Taking a break from our useless conversation, we veered off the highway and stopped off at a diner. My friend's girlfriend had complained to me about how much he had talked endlessly on his religious and conspiracy tirades. And if it hadn't been for those, their relationship would be perfect.

After ordering our food, he started to question my girlfriend about her religious beliefs. I could tell he he wanted to poke holes in her religion because he believes his should be the only one.

I jumped in and said, "We can't change our past. We're not even guaranteed tomorrow. Nor do we really know what happens when we die. What's important is this present moment. Do we live in happiness and peace now, or do we worry about what will happen after we die?"

My friend wasn't ready to admit what I had said had some merit. And that's fine. But unless you're 007 or you can actually do something about conspiracies, why spend what little time you have on this little blue marble called Earth worrying about it?

In the vain of the success of Star Wars, hate does lead to the darkside. What really depresses most people is a disconnection of some sort. It's the reason we all seek connection through relationships, friends and family (I could have just as well gone to the Sierras by myself, but it's more enjoyable with friends), New Year's gatherings in crowded cities, drunken bars during the holidays. We crave connection. We get it through people, through prayer, through doing things like painting, writing, singing, petting cats.

So I assume that my friend needs to go on these religious and conspiracy tirades in the hopes of convincing people he's right, so he feels connected and supported. But that's the thing about religious faith. He shouldn't need others to believe in order for him to believe. And that's what I find so weird about religious fanatics. Why do they need others to believe? Is it because they truly care about their fellow woman, or is it out of insecurity?

About that dinosaur bone with soft tissue still inside. I decided to look it up to see if this was some kind of hoax. And it wasn't.