Reason vs. Ray

By Rowdy Otto Riemer

Ray Comfort's “Evolution Vs. God” is an intellectually bankrupt attempt to make evolution seem unscientific and its proponents to be fools. The movie is an exchange between him and people he chooses to interview. He seems to mostly cherry pick responses from people who seem to be poorly informed, and when interviewing experts, he relies on a semantic games to make their answers seem insufficient. Unable to stay on topic, much of the film is a discussion of atheism rather than evolution. When he actually does address evolution, his arguments are absurd. And like many times before, he demonstrates that he really doesn't even understand what Darwinian evolution is.


Order vs. Disorder - Groups of Blocks Order vs. Disorder - Groups of Blocks

By Rowdy Otto Riemer

I've mentioned before that to me, order simply means being a state our minds find interesting whereas disorder means being in a state that our minds do not find interesting. I think I've found a good way of explaining this.

Suppose you saw two groupings of blocks with several blocks in each group. Group A is stacked neatly forming a large cube. Most would consider this arrangement to be ordered. Group B is in a large pile. Most would consider this group to be disordered.

Over time, Earthquakes happen, the wind blows the blocks around, and various things bump into the groups of blocks altering their arrangements. After a while, the result is two jumbled piles of blocks that most would consider to be in disorder. Without someone restacking the blocks, Group A will never return to a cube-shaped stack, while Group B has always been a jumbled pile and can remain so indefinitely (well, until they are completely separated, destroyed, etc.).

How we look at the groups before and after the changes is due mostly to our categorical thinking. Before the change, Group A was very different from Group B. Group A is also very different before the change than afterwards. But we might think that Group B’s initial state is quite similar to the final states of both states. This is very much incorrect.


Santa or God

By Jon Webster (originally posted on Facebook page The Thinker).

Santa or God: Which Fantasy Is Safer To Teach Your Children In Order To Make Them Behave?

The Thinker
The Thinker

There are two delusions, falsehoods or fantasies (call them what you may) told to children to make them behave. You have God and Santa Claus. But which one is less likely to harm, twist, and warp the young, fragile, and innocent mind of a child? Let’s take a look at and compare and contrast them and discover which story is more appropriate to tell to children. So, let’s begin. Which one shall we go with if we are forced to choose, God or Santa?

Let’s draw the comparisons to start off with. With both, you get the 24 hour, ever-watchful surveillance to check on your behavior. “He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” We get it. You get the same thing with god.

Now let’s look at how they reward you. If you are good, Santa brings you presents. If you are good when it comes to god, you get to spend eternity worshipping him. Not really much of a reward, is it? You’d probably get bored as you do with every church service, hoping it will be over soon, constantly looking at your watch, and awaiting the dismissal prayer so you can go eat fried chicken at KFC. But in heaven, you are to endlessly worship god. Sounds like more of a reward for him than you, doesn’t it?


Subjective Morality

By Rowdy Otto Riemer

Many believe in objective morality. Even though many who do recognize gray areas, they generally believe there are certain actions that are objectively right and those that are objectively wrong. Some believe a god is the source of objective morality, and others believe there is a natural objective morality. But while objective means can be used to determine right and wrong when given a set of prioritized moral values, the values themselves are subjective. Therefore, morality, at its roots, is subjective.

Some believe their god provides an objective morality. In Steve Cardno’s essay, “The Creation Basis For Morality,” he makes the case that god is the ultimate moral authority. He states that “If there is no Creator who has made us and set the rules, then all our morals and ideas of what is right or wrong are simply subjective—what we ourselves decide.” What this statement explicitly states is correct, but what he seems to be implying with this statement and other statements in his essay - that if there is a creator who set the rules, then what is right and wrong is not subjective - is incorrect. God-based morality basically holds obedience to god as the highest value. Everything else is dependent upon and subordinate to god’s supposed will. However, this value rests upon the assumption that god is worthy of obedience. Such a judgement is subjective, and therefore, any god-based morality is still based on subjective values regardless of any god’s existence.


Step by Step

Faith can make a difference when it's faith in yourself.

By Kristina Tine (and Sage)July 26, 2010

After a discussion with the writer and her father, I am posting a short story written by my daughter, Sage, age 9. (Grammar and spelling all as she wrote, kept intact as she has presented).

Step by Step

Once there was a new born baby named Charolett, Charlie for short. Her parents loved her. No matter what would happen they would love her.

She was born with a disease. She couldn't walk. I would say the name, but it's unpronouncable. She would go to school with a wheelchair. Of course, she couldn't get around any other way. She didn't have many friends. Mostly because most of the kids made fun of her. Every day she would get picked on just because she was a little different. Charlie didn't like it one bit.

Her parents were with her for every step. Even though she couldn't take one. And that's why she was so sad in the first place.

No one realized that all she had to do was believe. In fact, no one could pronounce her disease because they didn't speak French. Her disease was was called Manque De Foi. It means lack of faith. Faith is the cure.

One day...she did it. She believed. She said, "Mommy! Daddy! I can walk!" Maybe her name should have been faith. Her parents always believed in her, but she didn't believe she could walk.

Step by step, her parents were with her. Step by step, she believed. Step by step, she found the cure.

-by Sage

Shot this one today, right before sunset, on our way to Frederick. Gambrill State Park, High Knob, in particular. Feels like a perfect photo to put into this story.


Admitting You Are Wrong

By Rowdy Otto Riemer

The Monty Hall Problem

Like many, I like to get into debates on various sites. Often, especially when debating religion or politics, it seems as if those I argue with are intellectual lightweights. The errors with their arguments are often so overwhelmingly obvious that I usually find dealing with them frustrating. Perhaps they aren't all actually stupid, but at least within the context of these discussions, they are intellectually compromised. Often their problem seems to be, simply, willful ignorance. No matter how rational my arguments and the arguments of others who agree with me are, they simply refuse to admit they are wrong.

The fact that I seem so obviously right when debating these people makes me question my own objectivity. Often times, I wonder what it takes for me to admit when I’m wrong. If their inability to admit when they were wrong was a symptom of their lack of objectivity, what did it say about me that I had not found myself needing to admit I was wrong in quite a while? Not long ago, I was eagerly anticipating the opportunity to find myself having to admit that I am wrong simply to confirm that I am able and willing to. Not too long ago, I got my chance.

God and Vengeance

By Rowdy Otto Riemer

Vengeance is something instinctual. The desire for it motivates animals to act against those who might harm them. The threat of vengeance helps motivate other animals to refrain from inflicting harm. The only reasonable purpose for punishment is to motivate others to improve their behavior, and the desire for vengeance provides us with the will to provide such punishment. Vengeance has no intrinsic value beyond this.

So why would vengeance be so important to any god? Why would a god need an instinctual desire for vengeance to guide his/her creation? Wouldn't a rational assessment of how much punishment is needed to coerce the creation lead to more appropriate levels of punishment? While animal or human sacrifices might satisfy the petty need for vengeance, how does that really serve the purpose of behavioral modification.

Why is there value in punishing sinners for eternity? If so many are supposedly headed there because of their sin, then obviously the threat of hell isn't working. If the threat of hell is doing so little to change people's behavior, what good is it?


Knowing is Not Enough

By Rowdy Otto Riemer

"…knowing the right thing to do isn’t always enough to motivate people to act wisely."

Does it bother you how people smoke when they know it’s harmful? Or how about people with addictions to drugs? Don’t they realize that they need help? Don’t they know their behavior is destructive? How about kids? They know the rules and break them anyway, sometimes even when they know they’re going to get caught. The problem is that knowing the right thing to do isn’t always enough to motivate people to act wisely.

In one of his online lectures, neuroscientist and Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky discusses aggression. In particular, he focused on the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. One thing he mentions is that activity in one region inhibits activity in the other. People with extremely damaged or missing prefrontal cortexes can be fully aware of what they should do and at the same time be completely unable to do it.

As an example, Sapolsky describes the following test. The test conductor shows the subject some M&M's in his or her open hands - five M&M's in one hand and one M&M in the other hand. The subject is instructed that if they choose the hand with the single M&M, they will be given the five M&M’s from the other hand, but if they choose the hand with the five M&M's, they will be given the one M&M from the other hand.

If the subject has a severely damaged or missing prefrontal cortex, he or she can fully explain that they know it's better to choose the hand with the single M&M; however, they are unable to keep from reaching for the hand with five M&Ms.

Sapolsky also discusses Phineas Gauge, whose ability to behave properly was destroyed along with his prefrontal cortex in an accident.