Saturday, August 16, 2008

Carnival of the Godless #98

Welcome to the 98th bi-weekly Carnival of the Godless!!!

I've gathered up a fantastic assortment of god-free thought for you, so let's dig in!


Michael Meadon points out that going out of your way to bring up atheism when teaching about evolution isn't just bad strategy, it's bad pedagogy. Evolution doesn't require "non-existence of God" as a hypothesis, so (hardcore atheist and Dawkins fan) Meadon disagrees with Dawkins' approach of taking the incompatibility of theism and science for granted when discussing evolution with students in a science class. Meanwhile some Christians make a counter-claim that evolution is, in fact, at odds with "naturalism." If that leaves you going "Wha...? What are you talking about?" (since naturalism can mean a lot of different things, including nudism), then check out Jared's hilarious response!

A whole lot of religious people seem to think that belief in God requires disproving evolution. The frustrating part is trying to debate people who don't have the faintest clue about how evolution works (or how science itself works, for that matter). Norman Doering asks where do you even begin with people who seriously think that evolution predicts the existence of a crocoduck? At the end of his article, though, he links to a great place to begin: Berkeley's Understanding Evolution website which provides resources for a fun and painless introduction to evolution, including a fascinating article about Tiktaalik explaining what evolution predicts about transitional forms like the fishy ancestors of land animals. Similarly, Maria Salva provides a clear and eloquent explanation of how "gaps" are really just opportunities to learn more.

Next we have the prizewinner for "most creative use of ignorance about science": theists who think Pangaea is described in the Bible. On Open Threat we find a patient explanation of why believing that Pangaea suddenly split into separate continents a few thousand years ago (during the "days of Peleg") is a good deal crazier than just rejecting the theory of plate tectonics entirely. In a similar vein, Bing explains Dinesh D'Souza's misconceptions about prehistoric humans, and Naon Tiotami tackles the "Answers in Genesis" claims that car evolution disproves evolution of living things.

Of course there are other approaches. Andrew Bernardin suggests a counter-claim that the "Theory of Intelligent Design" predicts the existence of flying fruit.

Miller explains why reductionism (everything can ultimately be explained by its constituent parts) doesn't imply that complex objects don't exist. So does Allah read thoughts from people's hearts, as it says in the Koran? Bobby is not convinced.


As the Chaplain explains, God is horribly incompetent as a babysitter. Similarly Archvillain is none too impressed with God's record on protecting kids.

In addition to the kids He allows to die, if you think that He installs a soul at the moment when the sperm fertilizes the egg, then He's also the ultimate abortionist, as discussed by Ari.

Ron Britton reports about a pastor who holds an annual week-long crusade that involves arrangements with the local public schools to let the kids out during the middle of the school day to attend his church. Oh, and gloats over the death of a lawyer who had been preventing this unconstitutional activity in one town. Could be worse for the kids, I guess – could be Jesus Camp (reviewed by Ron Gold).


The top news story is that the Democratic National Convention has decided to add an "interfaith" religious service for the first time ever. To show how inclusive they are, they've made it "interfaith" to include everybody! Well, everybody who counts, that is. In an egregious and obvious display of Machiavellian strategy, the Democratic Party has noted that those people who think GWB's grand public piety show was a part of problem in the last eight years – they're sure as hell not going to desert the Democrats now. So why not throw them to the wolves and take a page from Mitt Romney, pretending that America's political discourse is a "symphony of faith"? If you're displeased by the DNC's cynical political pandering to organized religion, Vjack has provided info on how to get your voice heard here. On the other hand, if you're confused about this issue, Diana Hsieh gives a concise explanation of what our secular constitution has to say about bringing religion into government.

It's not clear who the Democrats are hoping to impress, given that the people who favor religious discrimination are currently praying that Obama's speech will be rained out as discussed by Doctor Biobrain.

The Republicans have their religion problems too. Postman channels God to have a little chat with McCain about his treatment of veterans, and the Whited Sepulchre passes along a message from a Republican politician that Jews (like Lieberman) don't believe in Jesus!

And, in world politics, Jeffrey Stingerstein explains that a theocracy that practices execution by stoning can't be trusted with nuclear weapons.


Let's start with the distance between what's true and what you'd like to believe. Irradiatus talks about the difficulty of seeing all of humanity "no more than blips of energy in an inconsequential cosmic blink." Hank Fox takes it a step further by asking what to say to a dying grandmother about meaning and human existence.

Then, on the other side of the coin, PhillyChief describes inventing excuses to justify belief in God. (The Exterminator has compiled some funny ones as well.) If unanswered (and unanswerable) questions get in the way of believing what you want to believe, you can always just call the problem a "divine mystery" and put it on the shelf (to be ignored), as Greta Christina explains in The Problem of Unfishiness. Then Larryniven takes a more serious, philosophical approach to deciding which beliefs are justified.

And Confused Liberal discusses the implications of atheism with respect to moral relativism. On the other hand, Ian explains that God's universal morals may well be worse.

Community and Strategy

The Amiable Atheist talks about the value of keeping the discussion civil when representing atheism. For example, LEECR7 describes a strange (but ultimately civil) highway encounter provoked by the Darwin fish on her car.

A Division by Zer0 has done some real work to help out the online atheist community, first setting up a tool that will allow you read a few top posts from all over Mojoey's 700+ strong atheist blogroll. Apparently for each blog it helps you find that blog's most popular posts. I'll probably try to use this one since I'd like to spend some of my blog-reading time on the various atheist blogs outside the few hundred blogs I've subscribed to, but it's a daunting task to know where to start. DB0 has also compiled a convenient list of resources for atheist bloggers.

As a supplement, I'll mention one item that didn't get included on that list: Social Rank's Challenge Religion. This one has the drawback that it's not clear how to get listed or how to move up. They have an official policy that they won't tell you precisely how their algorithm works (if they have one), and I'll admit I've spent some time contemplating this mystery. Nonetheless, by checking out their top posts, I've found some interesting articles outside my regular reading list. And if you'd like to play the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" game here, you may notice that the Nonbelieving Literati blogs make a decent showing on their list...

Which brings me to that literate atheist playgroup, the Nonbelieving Literati. If blogging is one of your hobbies, then I'd be willing to wager that you like reading, you like your reading choices to challenge (as well as entertain) you, and most of all, you like to add your own thoughts and ideas to the discussion. So why not take it up to the next level? Join us in the world of stories bound up and printed on good old-fashioned paper! Anyone can join, all you have to do is get a copy of the book we're reading (in this case The Flight of Peter Fromm by Martin Gardner), and post about it on your blog on or soon after the due date: September 15. I've already read this one, and I can tell you that it's a fascinating portrait of struggling in the mire of Christian theology and of how the religion of your childhood affects your outlook for your entire life. (To get an idea of how this book club goes, read the last batch of entries where we read Cosmicomics: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

And in other atheist lit news (what else? ;^) ), remember that the serial novella Temple Wedding begins September 9. This segment is the one about the adventures of young adult non-believers coming back home for a big religious wedding. If you've lived this sort of thing (or expect you will), why not see how your experiences compare to those of our cast of exmormons? ;^) As always, you can read this segment as a stand-alone story (without going back and reading the earlier segments Young Women's, Youth Conference, Saturday's Warrior, BYU, Gratuitious Love Scene, and Polygamist), but you might want to catch up on the old ones since this is the story that brings all the characters together for a great big family gathering!

Well, that's it for this fortnight!! Tune in at Oz Atheist's Weblog in two weeks for the 99th thrilling episode of the Carnival of the Godless!!!

(If you'd like to submit an article, do it here. Also, you can submit a post here for the Humanist Symposium which will appear next week at The Uncredible Hallq.)


The Exterminator said...

Hey, C.L.:
Thanks for including me in this Carnival. I was pleasantly surprised to find a post of mine in the mix.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Hey, that's my name up there!

Woohoo, I'm famous!!!

C. L. Hanson said...

No problem guys -- hope you like the carnival!!! :D

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I read with interest the article linked here about what to say to your dying Grandmother.
It was nicely thought out and carried a lovely message.
What worried me slightly was - why would someone feel the need to be so "honest" to a beloved relative when surely the kindest thing to do would be to support her in HER PERSONAL FAITH at this time.
Surely the writer should be secure enough in his OWN beliefs to not have to assert them at this time. It sounded a little too close to evangelism to me.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Anonymous!!!

Well, it's a bit of a difficult question to give a general all-purpose answer to. For me, it would depend quite a bit on the person and the relationship. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't go out of my way to try to deconvert someone who's on his/her deathbead, yet if a dying grandmother were posing me questions aobut my belief in God, I wouldn't lie.