Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rated 'E'

So I've been rated 'E' by a few bloggers: Mike the Mad Biologist, The Crone Speaks and PhysioProf. Rah.

Here are ten excellent blogs that deserve the award (in alphabetical order):

The Apostate
The Choice is Now
Five Public Opinions
Often Right, Rarely Correct
Only in America
Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus
The Political Cat
Political Crank
Thoughts from a Sandwich

I don't really like this sort of thing: ideally, I'd just post all my friends, everyone who comments here; heck, I might as well post my sidebar. Excellence is proven by content, not by awards.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On the road again

I'm on the road. Updates will be at best rare, at worst non-existent, until next week.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What if I'm wrong?

Jake & Elwood Blues ask What if I'm wrong?.

Well, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. So what?

The potential consequences of a belief, especially when those consequences aren't at all provable, aren't a valid basis for choosing that belief. Sure, if Yahweh exists, and at all resembles the savage, bloodthirsty, crazily jealous (of whom?) and positively batshit-insane character of the Old Testament, I'm pretty much screwed, in hell for all eternity. Of course, if Allah really exists, and resembles the equally batshit-insane character in the Koran, I'm equally screwed.

And let me assure you, gentle reader, that I am God's prophet on Earth and you will spend eternity in a fiery hell unless you renounce all other religions, create a shrine to Charles Darwin and Richard Feynman, and send me $100. That may sound implausible, but what if you're wrong?

We do have to make decisions on our best estimate of the consequences. I've evaluated the potential consequences of dying in fiery car crash, and I believe the chances are rather slim, hence I actually drive my car. But it's pointless to ask, "What if I'm wrong about the chances?" Well, if I'm wrong, then I'll probably die in a fiery car crash. But take a person who believes the opposite: What if they're wrong and not driving a car will increase one's chances of dying in a fiery car crash? Yes, that seems implausible, but the question, "What if you're wrong?" assumes that the seemingly implausible is actually true.

It's a sucker's game, an attempt to motivate people to act from fear rather than rational sense.

One thing that irritates me about this line from Christians (and Muslims) is that I hate threats. And it is most definitely a threat: Believe in Christianity (or Islam), without regard to how absurd it might seem, because if you don't you'll be tortured for an eternity in hell.

Leaving God aside for a moment, we have the problem of credibility. I might or might not trust God, but why in the world should I trust Christians? You might as well rob a bank by phone. You might as well knock on my door and say, "Give me all your money, or my invisible friend will obtain a nuclear weapon from Albania and set it off in your garage."

All threats are violent assaults, and, frankly, it's only the fact that I'm convulsed with laughter at the ridiculous notion of eternal punishment beyond the grave that stops me from defending myself. But such threats don't much improve my moral evaluation of the Christians who make them.

And even if Yahweh Himself were to threaten me, I would still give him two middle fingers. Don't threaten me, give me reasons. You created the universe, and now you're acting like a B-movie mafia thug?

But of course, Yahweh does not exist. Allah does not exist. Krishna, Shiva, and Kali don't exist. The Buddha was just a guy, albeit a pretty smart guy. Thor, Zeus, Marduk, Cthulhu, and all the rest are characters in imaginative fictional literature; they are inventions of the human mind. There is no heaven, no hell, and this life is all we have. If it pleases you to live this life in fear, and spend a good portion of it giving thanks to the ceiling and supporting parasitic priests, well, it's your life, not mine.

Even if I'm wrong, I'm not going to live my life controlled by absurd fears, ridiculous threats and contemptible parasites.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Generalizations and universals

Evidentiary arguments rely on the elevation of generalizations (a lot of X are A) to universals (all X are A). This technique, though, is analytically fallible, and we employ the technique out of desperation.

If there are any universals at all, then the elevation of a generalization to universal can sometimes be true even if it is not logically valid (and thus always true). Since all universals are generalizations, if there are some universals, then some generalizations are universals.

First, We can't be certain that any particular generalization really is a universal, but we can be certain that some generalizations are not universals by discovering a counterexample; a generalization that really is a universal will have no counterexamples. Hence Popper's criterion of falsifiability. If it is logically impossible to observe a counterexample for some generalization, then the generalization is not a generalization; it's an analytical statement.

We can observe counterexamples by the same means that we observe examples that do fit the generalization: Just making the generalization in the first place means that we can directly determine that some thing is X, and we can directly and indepentently determine that an X is in fact A.

For example, if a "crow" is defined to be "a black bird", then by definition we cannot find a crow that is not black; by virtue of being non-black, the being, whatever it is, is by definition not a crow. Since we cannot determine whether a crow is black independently of determining that some thing is a crow, it's not a generalization to state that "all crows are black". If it's not a generalization in the first place, we can't reason from a generalization to a universal.

A subtler way of defeating a generalization is to hold it true "come what may" and always adjust other statements around any observations. This technique is not entirely illegitimate, but it's more honest and clear to explicitly phrase such a statement as a definition. All the statements that one has adjusted around the statement held true "come what may" contribute to the analytical definitions of the terms used in the statement.

To come around to our original point, the evidentiary argument for Intelligent Design relies on the generalization that:
    IDg: A lot of complex* things with an independently determinable origin were intelligently designed (by human beings)
and therefore we conclude the universal
    IDu: All complex things — even those with an origin that we cannot independently determine — were intelligently designed
*With "complex" standing in for a lot of specific features that human artifacts uncontroversially share with terrestrial life forms.

(Intelligent Design looks moderately acceptable, but only so far; it won't be until the next post that I'll start exploring more features of reasoning from generalizations to universals that ID starts to fail catastrophically.)

We do want to avoid specious analyticity. If we define "intelligent design" as "any process that produces complexity" then we aren't saying anything other than "complex things are the result of some process." This trivial generalization is not at all a matter of controversy. Worse yet, by defining "intelligent design" in such a manner, we practically beg the reader to import connotations (intention, memory, desire, will) that have been explicitly excluded from the definition. (Only a lawyer, theologian or philosopher could love the fine line between actually lying and intentionally leading the reader to a false conclusion.)

We also want to avoid holding the generalization true "come what may"; we want to avoid defining all our other terms around holding as true the statement "All complex things are the result of intelligent design," or, worse yet, accepting new statements willy-nilly for the only reason that they support the truth of the statement.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Education and argumentation

In comments, Pastor Rob justifies an oversimplification as just good education:
Larry, a lot of people like simple stories to illustrate points. Good teachers teach (attempt to take complicated issues and put them on a lower shelf for everyone) they don't showcase all the big words they know in the hopes that someone will get lost in the mumbo jumbo -- it's called "Argument By Prestigious Jargon."
He has kind of a point: once the truth has been established, it's a legitimate technique to oversimplify it for the purpose of education; the complications and qualifications can be introduced later. But Rob directly conflates education with argumentation, the communication of established truth with the establishment of truth.

There are no shortcuts to establishing the truth. I'm apparently using words outside Rob's vocabulary and concepts outside the range of his education, but what can I do? You can't establish truth with sound bites and hand-waving. You have to dig in and explore the complexity of the issues. (And if Rob thinks science and philosophy are refractory, I wonder what he thinks of sophisticated theology. Oy vey! Talk about "Argument By Prestigious Jargon!")

In any event, this is not a "teaching" blog, it is a blog about me doing my best to figure out what's true, and communicate my thoughts to a few score readers. And it is most definitely not a platform for anyone — theologian, philosopher or politician — to promulgate or propagandize whatever authoritarian dogma they happen to adhere.

Rob, you do not like the theory (or theories) of evolution. We get that, five by five. As it happens, I'm not all that interested in the gory details of evolutionary biology. I'm not a professional scientist, and this is not a science blog. But I am, however, interested in argumentation in general, and philosophy — especially the philosophy of science — in particular.

So, Rob, if you have an argument — not an illustration, not a point of view, not an opinion — but an actual argument, I'm interested in hearing it. If you have an actual argument that employs actual facts, even if I disagree with your conclusions, I'll not only address it on its merits but also post it (with your permission) on the main page of the blog.

But if you just want to "teach" people about your ignorant and uninformed opinions or (to the extent that the categories can be distinguished) your theology, you have your own church and your own blog in which to do so.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Theistard lies again

Our (presently) resident cretinist theistard, Pastor Rob, lies again: on our respective "groups" examining a painting by Van Gogh
Your group: "This arrived here over trillions [sic] of years of natural processes. The lessor art works were not able to survive, here you have the survival of the Van Gogh -- appearing before us in all its intricate detail by mere chance [sic].

My Group: "It's a nice painting. Must have had a painter."

Other than the time frame being off by four or five orders of magnitude, and that nobody believes that complex life-forms arose by mere chance (and Rob has already been called on this lie), a scientist might say something similar... but only if we had actually observed:
  1. paintings reproduce
  2. new paintings having similar traits to their parent paintings
  3. a physical mechanism by which these similarities had been communicated from parent to offspring
  4. evidence that paintings had been around for at least some hundreds of millions — if not billions — of years
  5. gradual changes in these hundred million year old paintings being correlated with age (and resemblance to modern paintings inversely correlated with age)
But of course we've observed none of those things. We know that people paint paintings not because they're complex, but because (and I don't think Rob's tiny little mind quite grasps the point) we've actually observed people paint paintings.

I hope Rob is not quite so casual about insulting his parishioners' intelligence as he is about insulting my readers' intelligence.

Update: I prefer to reserve for myself the privilege of abusing my commenters. One of the reasons I blog instead of posting on message boards is because I find the swarm of condemnation that follows comments as mendacious and egregiously stupid as Rob's to be mostly boring and counterproductive.

If you have a substantive comment to make, please make it, and if you spot lies and bullshit that I've missed you most definitely may call it lies and bullshit (with substantiation, please). (And of course it's none of my business what anyone writes on their own blog.) But let's hold back on gratuitous abuse in comments here, however well-deserved. I can handle this guy with one hemisphere tied behind my cerebellum.

Besides, Rob is a sensitive soul, and he sees conspiracies and "group think" whenever two people agree with each other (unless, of course, they agree with him).

Uber Cool Nerd King says I'm an Uber Cool Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!

I'd've scored higher on SF/comic if they'd included TV and movie questions that went beyond Star Trek/Wars, Dr. Who and Battlestar Galactica. (e.g. Red Dwarf, Firefly, Lexx, etc. I'm a postmodern SF fan.)

Only in America

If you're not reading Only in America every day, you're missing out on Himself's trenchant and thorough summary of the news showing the hand-in-hand march of Islam and Western civilization towards violent totalitarianism, with the United States in the lead and Britain not far behind.

Evidentiary arguments

In my previous post, I mentioned the (apparently) evidentiary argument for the intelligent design of terrestrial life. I promised to look at the fundamental flaws of this argument, but I have to digress into why we use evidentiary arguments, the inherent logical flaw in evidentiary arguments themselves, why it's pragmatically useful to work around that logical flaw rather than discard the evidentiary mode of argumentation altogether. We can then look at whether it's even possible to work around the flaw, and, if possible, the techniques that we can employ to do so.

Then we can look at how the (apparently) evidentiary argument for intelligent design fails to work around that flaw.

The fundamental flaw of all evidentiary arguments is that they elevate, at some level, a generality to a universal: From the basis that a lot of X are A we conclude that all X are A. Because some generalities are not universals, this feature of evidentiary arguments gives philosophers — even atheist philosophers such as Hume — conniption fits. Because, yes, it's not a universally valid logical operation. We can't be logically certain that the conclusion of an evidentiary argument is true — even given accurate evidence — in the same way we can be logically certain of the conclusions of deductive arguments given true premises. Since it is analytically false that some X are A entails that all X are A, we can confidently conclude that evidentiary arguments are analytically fallible: We don't even need to look at specific counterexamples to make this determination.

Since evidentiary arguments embed a principle which is not universally logically valid, no one would choose to use them except out of desperation. But we are indeed desperate. While we can be absolutely certain that logically valid operations always draw true conclusions from true premises, we have no way at all of having any idea whatsoever that our premises are indeed true. Premises are by definition not themselves logically deduced. The only reason to employ evidentiary arguments is that they are (or seem) pragmatically effective at making predictions about reality (or our subjective perceptions of reality) in a way that purely deductive arguments completely and totally fail.

If some philosopher or logician can find a way to give us interesting and pragmatically useful ways of predicting reality with deductive certainty, I'll be the first to nominate her for philosophy's equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Until then, we have to do the best we can with what we have, and try to find a way — in the absence of certainty — to make evidentiary arguments as confident as we can manage.


Perusing Pastor Rob's latest rant, imagine my surprise when, after the conflation between biogenesis and evolution and incoherent babbling about chance and causality, I stumble upon an actual point: "[T]he number one problem atheists and macro evolutionists face [is] HOW DO WE GET LIFE FROM NON LIVING CHEMICALS?!"

Of course, this isn't a problem specifically for macro evolutionists (are micro evolutionists really short scientists?) or even all atheists. It is a question, though, that physicalism — the position that phenomena can be explained by non-teleological physics — needs to answer. Happily, the answer is rather straightforward. (It's also worth noting that this question is philosophical, not scientific; it has nothing whatsoever to do with evolution or physical biogenesis.)

We might just as well ask: How do we get a galaxy from stars, none of which is a galaxy? How do we get a rock from atoms, none of which is a rock? How do we get macroscopic temperature, pressure or entropy from gas molecules, none of which have these properties? The Moon isn't an orbit, but if we take away the Moon, where's the Moon's orbit? How do we get Bibles from books, books from chapters, chapters from paragraphs, paragraphs from sentences, sentences from words and words from letters? How do we get meaning from marks on paper or sounds in air, none of which are intrinsically meaningful?

The obvious answer is that "life" is an abstract, emergent property. It's a property our minds ascribe to aggregations of matter that do particular things, things like move around, reproduce, use energy in a particular way, etc. There is no such thing as "life" as an independent, intrinsic, fundamental property: There is only the abstract property of "being alive" that we ascribe to aggregations of matter.

Abstract, emergent properties stand in contrast to concrete, intrinsic properties, such as mass* or extension in space*. Concrete, intrinsic properties are irreducible and additive: We cannot take away the mass of an atom without taking away the atom itself and the mass of an aggregate of atoms is the sum of the mass of the individual atoms**.

*Yes, I'm oversimplifying somewhat.

The concept of abstract, emergent properties poses some interesting philosophical questions, but it's very difficult to simply dispose of the concept and speak exclusively about only concrete, intrinsic properties (and perhaps simple relative properties such as relative velocity). Talking about abstract, emergent properties is just too valuable and useful a technique to dispose of it just because it gives an answer you don't like.

(Another way of looking at the issue is that, in some sense, life is matter in motion, and motion is a concrete, intrinsic property of matter.)

Commenter ubercheesehead had an interesting take on the issue. He abandoned the notion that emergent properties were impossible, and instead argued that emergent properties were evidence of intelligent design. The argument, I imagine, would go something like this:
  1. Not counting terrestrial organisms, all of the objects we can observe that have complicated emergent properties are artifacts of (human) intelligent design.
  2. Terrestrial organisms have complicated emergent properties
  3. Therefore terrestrial organisms are the product of intelligent design.
It's not the worst argument in the world, it's superficially appealing, but it fails on a number of points.

It's an evidentiary argument (complicated emergent properties are held as evidence for intelligent design), but evidentiary arguments have to account for all the evidence; it's not enough to just cherry-pick the evidence that supports your case. And, of course, there are many dissimilarities between terrestrial organisms and human artifacts: Human artifacts show lateral transfer, lack persistent trivial functional flaws, change dramatically over short periods of time, and operate cooperatively, not competitively. Other than having complex emergent properties, terrestrial life forms lack few similarities, especially features of human artifacts that we can identify as entailing from their intelligent origin.

More importantly, this sort of argument fundamentally misuses the evidentiary mode of argumentation. Showing the misuse is subtle and complicated, so I'll address it in my next post.

Blogging on PseudoScientific DoucheBags

Blogging on PseudoScientific DoucheBags. The name says it all. Check it out. (h/t to Mike the Mad Biologist)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


FYI: The (present) IP address for Wikileaks is
Wikileaks is developing an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. Our primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact. Our interface is identical to Wikipedia and usable by all types of people. We have received over 1.2 million documents so far from dissident communities and anonymous sources.

We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies. All governments can benefit from increased scrutiny by the world community, as well as their own people. We believe this scrutiny requires information. Historically that information has been costly - in terms of human life and human rights. But with technological advances - the internet, and cryptography - the risks of conveying important information can be lowered.

Wikileaks opens leaked documents up to stronger scrutiny than any media organization or intelligence agency can provide. Wikileaks provides a forum for the entire global community to relentlessly examine any document for its credibility, plausibility, veracity and validity. Communities can interpret leaked documents and explain their relevance to the public. If a document comes from the Chinese government, the entire Chinese dissident community and diaspora can freely scrutinize and discuss it; if a document arrives from Iran, the entire Farsi community can analyze it and put it in context. Sample analyses are available here.

In its landmark ruling on the Pentagon Papers, the US Supreme Court ruled that "only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government." We agree.

We believe that it is not only the people of one country that keep their government honest, but also the people of other countries who are watching that government. That is why the time has come for an anonymous global avenue for disseminating documents the public should see.

Fine Tuning

In comments, Rob Singleton alludes to the Fine Tuning argument. (I think he alludes to it; his comment is incoherent.)

The Fine Tuning argument argues that the probability of a life-friendly universe is so unlikely that it must have been created intentionally.

There are a lot of problems with the Fine Tuning argument, though.

First of all, the Fine Tuning argument absolutely cannot distinguish between naturalism and supernaturalism regardless of how we evaluate the probabilities. The Weak Anthropic Principle states that because we exist (and we know we exist a priori), if naturalism were true we must observe a universe in which we can exist. I'll write more on this later, since it gets into complicated issues of evidentiary epistemology.

A life-friendly universe is not necessarily highly improbable. Rob mentions the "100-plus constants (that have to be there for life on planet earth)", but there are only 26 dimensionless parameterized constants in the Standard Model of physics (precision and factual accuracy do not seem to be Rob's strong suits), and many of them "describe the properties of the unstable strange, charmed, bottom and top quarks and mu and tau leptons which seem to play little part in the universe or the structure of matter." [Wikipedia]

We not certain, however, that this universe is improbable at all. We do know that the Standard Model of physics is incomplete: physicists have not yet reconciled quantum mechanics with general relativity. If they can reconcile the two, we might change our estimate of the probabilities; if we cannot reconcile the two, the universe would be a weirder place than even quantum mechanics suggests, and it's difficult to see how one would talk about probability at all. And, who knows, we might discover for deep reasons that have nothing to do with life that this is the only universe that could possibly exist.

There's also the Strong Anthropic Principle: It may be we ourselves who have brought the universe into existence, and we have evidence from quantum mechanics that atemporal causality is not impossible and cannot be ruled out on the basis of the present evidence.

For the Fine Tuning argument to have any force, it must be meaningful in some sense, at least in the abstract, to make counter-factually definite statements about how the universe might have been, but isn't actually. Some philosophers would assert that meaningful counter-factual definiteness entails an ontological commitment to the actual existence of the counter-factual conditions: in other words, for us to talk about how the universe might have been, those alternatives must actually exist. In which case, the Fine Tuning argument loses all force. If all physically possible universes exist, then of course we find ourselves in one of the universes that is physically life-friendly.

(It's notable that the strongest ontological interpretation of quantum mechanics (not counting the explicitly anti-ontological Copenhagen interpretation) besides the Transactional interpretation is the Many Worlds interpretation, which would obviously justify naturalism on the Weak Anthropic Principle.)

The above arguments are entirely speculative; I mention them for the sake of completeness.

More importantly, if we can talk in any meaningful sense about how the universe might have been, it is possible to talk in the same sense about how any hypothetical creator might have been. For each sort of alternative universe that is plausible enough to be counted in the domain, it must be equally plausible to talk about a creator of that universe. So the domain of plausible creators must be at least as large as the domain of possible universes, and therefore the probability that a specific creator exists to create a specific universe is at least as small as the probability that this universe exists by chance. Positing a creator (at best) just moves the improbability around; it doesn't eliminate it. At worst, we must count creators who might have created a universe but create no universes at all, making a creator of this universe less probable than this universe existing by chance.

Probably the most important conclusion we can draw is that even if the universe were intentionally created, we can discern nothing about that creator that we cannot discern of the physical universe. We cannot say anything about this supposed creator other than it is the sort of creator who would create this particular universe in all its details.

We cannot determine if this being wants to be worshipped or ignored. We can't tell if it is friendly, hostile or completely indifferent to human, or even terrestrial life. Just believing that such a creator exists gives us absolutely no additional justification for believing that any religious scripture is inspired by this creator. (Indeed the idea that a being capable of creating such a vast universe, of actually creating physics itself, would choose to communicate with its creation by the agency of schizophrenic prophets and parasitic priests in some a remote corner of the ancient world seems vastly less plausible than that all religions are entirely human social constructs.)

We cannot even determine that the existence of life itself was a goal of this creator or a side-effect. Indeed, the relative insignificance of terrestrial life argues for the side-effect interpretation. The mold in the grout in my bathtub is more "significant" by many orders of magnitude to all of human civilization than is terrestrial life to the ~9.2x1021 light-year3 observable universe: that specific patch of mold has more justification for believing that all of human civilization has been created specifically and intentionally for its benefit than we have for believing that the entire observable universe has been created for the benefit of all terrestrial life.

In short, the Fine Tuning argument is speculative, probabilistically meaningless, and, even if true, doesn't establish anything interesting. I think it's safe to say that, after Pascal's Wager, it's the second worst apologetic ever.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Carnival of the Godless

The latest dirty version of the Carnival of the Godless is available at Greta Christina's blog. She also posts a clean version. The dirty version is better.

Process Reliabilism

In a comment on Stephen Law's blog, Timmo propounds the epistemic theory he labels Process Reliabilism:
(R) If an agent A believes that p, then A is justified in believing that p if and only if there is some reliable-belief forming process P and A's belief that p is a result of that process P.
(For some reason, Timmo labels this statement as externalist, however, it seems entirely internalist to me.) His view, however, is deficient for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, we have no rigorous account of what constitutes a "reliable belief", or even a rigourous definition of "reliable": We're simply moving the lack of rigor from "justification" to "reliable belief". And why abstract epistemology at the definitional level to a process? If we can tell the difference between a reliable-belief forming process and a process that does not form reliable beliefs, then we can tell the difference between between a reliable belief and an unreliable belief, and why not just base our epistemology on that faculty.

I can conclude only that this sort of philosophical mumbo-jumbo is employed so that an advocate can simply define some process as reliable-belief forming, and thus justify the beliefs formed by this process. As Timmo notes:
Ibrahim can hold that he recognizes the truth of the Koran's teachings through the testimony of his sensus divinitatis. Moreover, because this faculty, which has been given to him by God, is a reliable one, he is justified in believing in the Koran.
Timmo also notes that all our beliefs, including those about external reality are, in some sense unreliable:
All of our belief-producing faculties fail under certain conditions: memory suffers from confabulation; the testimony of others might be lies; vision fails under low-light conditions; our conscience is distorted by own own wicked motives and by the powerful cultural moores which surround us; etc. The analogy between conscience and the sensus divinitatis is worth pressing. Just as our own wicked motives or corrupt social moores distort the moral intuitions emanating from our conscience, so does our sin and alienation from God distort beliefs produced by our sensus divinitatis. The disagreement here merely reflects the fact that we are sinful creatures and require the assistance of God.
But the problem is even more severe than Timmo notes. On the one hand, our memories might be always false; our vision might be nothing but specious illusion. Our sensus divinitatis might be a sensus demonitatis. On the other hand, we might hold that our memories are perfectly reliable, our vision always veridical (i.e. if we cannot see an object, regardless of the light level, it is not actually there), our conscience perfectly reliable. As Quine noted, and Monty Python humorously illustrates we can take any number of statements as axiomatically true "come what may" and adjust the rest of our beliefs around these axioms. You can even "prove" that the mythology and cultural prejudices of Iron-age slave-owning genocidal savages is absolutely, factually and literally true and reconcile the worst of its barbaric ethics with modern Western political reality (so literalists don't go to prison for stoning their disobedient children).

These sorts of axioms — empirical, religious, or even schizophrenic paranoia — cannot be disproved just by an appeal to internal consistency. It's worth noting that, in a sense, even empiricism forms an "intellectual black hole": Once you've "bought into" the premises of empiricism to the exclusion of all others, there's no way for any reasoning on those premises to throw you out of the system.

Empirical rationality does not possess the advantage that it can be somehow "proven" to be reliable (it can be defined without contradiction to be perfectly reliable, completely unreliable or anywhere in between). Its chief advantage is that it is more pragmatically effective at generating agreement between individuals. It generates agreement on two principles. First, it relies upon only generally agreed-upon statements of perceptual fact. The empirical project is not to "believe the truth" but to generate agreement, therefore we embed agreeability into the definition.

Secondly, the veracity of any set of statements, including those of perceptual fact, is evaluated according to Occam's razor: A statement-set is veridical if and only if:
  1. It does not contradict any statement of perceptual fact
  2. it is compatible with all statements of perceptual fact
  3. there is no simpler statement set with features 1 and 2
It is the third qualification is both the greatest strength and greatest weakness of empiricism and evidentiary foundationalism.

Because we assume simplicity as a metaphysical criterion, we are able to generate agreement on what specifically counts as a reliable or unreliable (a.k.a. veridical or mistaken) perceptual experience. If, alone in my house, I remember that my car keys are in my jacket pocket, but they're not there but instead lying on the kitchen counter, I conclude that this instance of my memory is unreliable: It is simpler to hypothesize that my memory is false than to overturn all the laws of physics to hypothesize that my keys moved on their own when I wasn't looking. Note that I am still assuming my memory is authoritative: I don't deny that I really do remember my keys being in my jacket pocket, and my overall theory must account for this memory and why I conclude it isn't veridical.

And (to forestall some objections) there is nothing at all mysterious or non-rigorous about "simplicity": You basically count the irreducible hypothetical premises; the fewer the premises, the simpler the theory. (There are some sophisticated tweaks, but the basic idea of counting premises still applies.)

But the criterion of simplicity is also empiricism's greatest weakness. We cannot ever prove that the theory we have is actually the simplest. We cannot even prove that the simplest theory is actually true.

But that's not problematic. It's a sucker's game to try to talk about what's really true independent of our knowledge: By definition we cannot know anything at all independently of our knowledge. The universe might just be a program running on a mad scientist's giant computer, or just one thought among many in the mind of God. What appears to you, gentle reader, to be external reality — including this article — might be nothing more than the your own fevered imagination.

But so what? Who cares? I'm not interested in playing a sucker's game, where nothing can be known, where knowledge is irrelevant, or defined to be what you want to believe. Such metaphysical fantasies, where the all beliefs are equally "true", can do nothing but generate bullshit, albeit often bullshit of considerable artistry. But, at the end of the day, it's just bullshit.

Our project as human beings is to live and be happy. A big part of that project is not having the perceptual experience of falling off a cliff or being eaten by a tiger, or starving, or stubbing your toe. Pain still hurts, regardless of whether it is a specific neural state, "objectively" indistinguishable from any other neural state, or electrons in a mad scientists computer, or God's thoughts, or one's own solipsistic imagination.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Evolution and chance

In the comments to Rob Singleton's post about sex and marriage, Rob trots out an old trope and some egregious misconceptions about evolution and cosmology.
Truly, I don’t have near enough faith to be an atheist. And yes, I mean faith. In one sense, atheists are as religious as anyone else. ... Well the universe, earth, even human body — heck, let’s just take the human eye for that matter — are infinitely more complex than the greatest painting ever done, yet people want to believe it all just happened by chance–no God.

All we see from nothing?

Intricate design throughout the universe (let alone the human body) yet no designer?

All the complexity required just to keep the human body alive?


All the details in place for planet earth to be able to sustain life?

The exact speed of it’s rotation, the exact distance from our sun?

The perfect orbit to keep seasons form lasting forever and casting us into either a permanent freezer or a scorching hot death valley?

I'm trying to be nice so I will limit my condemnation to this: There is simply no excuse for a literate 21st century human being with a computer to be ignorant about what the theory of evolution actually says. Evolution, reduced to its philosophical essence, is about chance and natural selection. Evolution without natural selection is like Christianity without the New Testament, and half the story is worse than no story at all.

It's important to understand that before we even begin to discuss the scientific theories that fall under the rubric of "evolution" that the design hypothesis has immense, probably fatal flaws, flaws that were apparent in the 18th century. It's not just the presence of trivial design flaws. The whole way that terrestrial ecology is structured, relying as it does on predation and parasitism, with every organism existing at the edge of starvation, speaks to "design" of almost supernatural waste, inefficiency and incompetence, not to mention an immorality that eclipses the horror of the Old Testament character of Yahweh. And that's even before we get to 19th science, with the old age of the Earth, biology that revealed the utter lack of horizontal transfer of biological "technology" from one species to another, and, of course Charles Darwin's naturalistic theory of evolution by natural selection.

It is probably true that, to some extent, the habitability of the Earth is a matter of chance. Solar systems do not evolve as do life forms and are not subject to natural selection. However, there are about 200 billion stars in just our own galaxy, and there are about 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, for a total of 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. Just by comparison, if you dealt that many random hands of bridge, you would receive about 10,000,000,000 perfect hands, with 10 of them dealt in perfect order. It's extremely likely that some planet is ideally situated for the development of life, and of course it is precisely on that planet where life would occur.

The characteristics of life appearing exactly as it appears today is far more improbable by pure chance than merely being ideally situated for life. But, of course, no one suggests that pure chance is the explanation. The explanation is natural selection, where only those organisms with some sort of physical advantage over their peers survive and are able to reproduce.

Evolution takes a long time, longer by several orders of magnitude than would design even by human agency with technology only slightly improved over what we have now: After less than a hundred years of genetics, we are already improving the genomes of selected organisms. Assuming we don't blow ourselves up, drown in our own shit or revert to worldwide totalitarian theocracy, it is entirely plausible that we could develop the technology to create whole ecosystems from scratch in just a thousand years (or even a mere century).

If you're going to employ modern science in your apologetics, it really is incumbent upon you to actually find out what modern science actually says.

Friday, February 15, 2008

McCain and Choice

The Apostate makes a good argument for voting Democratic in the next election. If elected president, McCain will almost certainly do what he can to destroy abortion and reproductive rights (at least for most women; rich women won't have any problems. Feministing gives us the lowdown on McCain's abysmal record on choice:
  • Repeatedly voted for (and cosponsored) the Federal Abortion Ban. After the court upheld the ban, he said, "Today's Supreme Court ruling is a victory for those who cherish the sanctity of life and integrity of the judiciary. The ruling ensures that an unacceptable and unjustifiable practice will not be carried out on our innocent children."
  • Supported the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, a law that grants separate legal status to an embryo or fetus
  • Voted in favor of four anti‐choice U.S. Supreme Court nominees. "I’m proud that we have Justice Alito and Roberts on the United States Supreme Court. I’m very proud to have played a very small role in making that happen." (May 3, 2007 Republican debate)
  • Repeatedly voted to deny low‐income women access to abortion care except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment
  • Voted to permit federally funded Title X family‐planning clinics to decline to counsel women on abortion services
  • Voted against lifting the ban that forbids U.S. servicewomen from obtaining abortion services at overseas military hospitals with their own funds
  • Voted to require Title X family‐planning clinics to notify a teen’s parent before providing abortion services
  • Voted in favor of the Teen Endangerment and Grandmother Incarceration Act
  • Voted against the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE)
  • Voted to terminate the Title X family‐planning program
  • Voted against funding teen‐pregnancy‐prevention programs and ensuring that “abstinence‐only” programs are medically accurate
  • Voted to uphold the Global Gag Rule
  • Voted for the domestic gag rule, which would have prohibited federally funded family‐planning clinics from providing women with access to full information about their reproductive‐health options
  • Voted to de‐fund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an organization that provides family‐planning services – not abortion – for the world’s poorest women
  • Voted to earmark one‐third of all HIV/AIDS prevention funds for abstinence-only programs
  • Voted to take $75 million from the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant to establish a new “abstinence‐only” program
  • Voted to impose a federal parental‐consent law on teens seeking birth control. Not abortion. Birth control
  • Voted against legislation that would have required insurance coverage of prescription birth control, improved access to emergency contraception, and provided more women with prenatal health care
  • Voted to allow medical residency training programs in obstetrics and gynecology to receive federal assistance even if they ignore abortion training requirements

Of course, if you're a keep the (poor) women barefoot and pregnant Jesoid or you admire McCain's use of philosophical hair-splitting to appear against torture without having to actually do anything about it, by all means, vote for McCain.

If you vote for McCain because you're a Clinton supporter and Obama wins the nomination (or vice versa) you're selling out (at least four years early) women's most fundamental right to control their own bodies for nothing better than spite.

I may or may not vote for the Democratic nominee. (Much depends on how close California will be, and even if we win this election, we're fucked in 2012. But who knows, given 2-4 years, maybe we can teach the horse how to sing.) Even so, I'd chop off my nuts and become a priest of Cybelle before I voted for a misogynist Republican scumbag such as McCain.

Trying to be nice

So I just had the Jehovah's Witnesses here. We had a polite conversation for about 45 minutes (with me doing about 90% of the talking). A very nice couple of guys, polite and respectful. I was right upfront about (at least) being a philosophically-minded atheist (although I... er... didn't play up... the rudeness and contempt I often employ on the blog).

I have a little bit of a soft spot in my heart for the JWs. For all their weird beliefs, they typically stay the hell out of politics. I'm not at all thrilled with no blood transfusions for their children, but by and large I get along with them all right.

I gave them my email address. We'll see how things shape up.

I'm also commenting on Rob Singleton's blog. I don't usually read, much less comment on, Christian blogs, especially not conservative evangelical blogs, but he linked to me for Blogroll Amnesty Day. I figure if he's going to go out of his way to solicit my attention, I might as well participate.

I don't have high hopes: I've not had good experiences in the past. But, every once in a while, I give the whole project another go-around.

We'll see how it goes. I'll be nice as long as I can, although I tend to react rudely when people lie to me.

Today's reading

Jon Swift worries (hopes?) that Obama supporters will be disappointed when it turns out that Obama does not actually have supernatural powers. Sara, however, is not worried: Obama's campaign lacks most of the markers of actual cultism. [Obama supporters are just excited at having someone other than a stiff as the Democratic nominee. Besides, as Jon Swift reminds us, the election will be decided not by thoughtful, intelligent people who have carefully considered the issues, but by Scared High-strung Easily-manipulated Egocentric Pinheads. Ain't democracy wonderful?]

Sara further rebuts the Obama won't be Clintonized idiocy.

The Stupid Evil Bastard points us to the Atheist who sees an image of the Big Bang in a piece of toast. [mirror]

The magnificence of Plognark's commentary rises to that of his art when he complains The Stupid, It Burns (like the heat of a thousand suns).

I'm turning the Religious Idiots meme over to arthurvandelay.

In closing, PZ Myers highlights this video showing how we can further intelligent, thoughtful discourse with those unhappy with scientific knowledge.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Abortion lies

Yet another instance of a theistard lying about abortion: "the consensus is that abortion poses a great [cancer] risk to women."

This is a lie: There is no consensus. Jim Jordan probably believes he is telling the truth, but one has a moral duty to actually check one's facts; gross negligence is as evil as malice.

According to Planned Parenthood, no major scientific organization dedicated to the study of cancer supports the link between abortion and breast cancer. The Wikipedia article clearly shows that the issue is at least a matter of considerable controversy.

Sorry Jim. One lie and you lose. Check your facts.

Update: I seem to vaguely recall something about bearing false witness in the Bible. I think Jim deserves the title hypocrite as well.

My blogrolls

Fuck you very much, Technorati, for completely ignoring blogrolls in your rankings.

Here's my blogroll:

Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus: A Poetic Justice Affable Atheist Anatolian Storms And, yes, I DO take it personally Andre's Verse APJ Newsletter Army of Dude BabyWhisperingLoudly Ben Heine - Cartoons BFD Blog! Big Tent Democrat @ Talkleft Blazing Indiscretions Blind In Texas Blue Girl, Red State Blue Musings Coffee House Studio Cut to the Chase Daily Scare Decline and Fall Docudharma Dr. X's Free Associations Dystopian USA Echoing Voices Against War Edgeing exmearden Fire on the Mountain GDAEman Gold Star Mom Speaks Out Green Left Infoasis Happening Here Intrepid Liberal Journal Invictus: A blog on U.S. Politics and the Fight Against Torture Iraq Newsladder Iraq Today Iraq Update Kmareka Left End of the Dial Left Wing Nut Job Left-Handed Elephant Lost Chord Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time Making The World Safe For Hypocrisy March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm Meteor Blades @ Daily Kos Michael Leon: MAL Contends Michigan Class Notes Middle Earth Journal My Buffalo River Home My Thinking Spot No Rest for the Awake - Minagahet Chamorro OCD Gen X Liberal Photomontage Pissed On Politics Poetryman Productions Poets for Peace Radamisto Real's World Rubicon San Francisco Impeach Now! SanchoPress Screaming In An Empty Room Sinister Sirens Chronicles SocraticGadfly The Anti-War Theatre The Art of Peace The Consumer Trap The Existentialist Cowboy The Liberal Doomsayer The Liberal Journal The Mandarin The Motley Patriot The New Fatigue Press The Newshoggers The ORIGIN Playhouse The Osterley Times The Paragraph The Peace Tree Truthiness - News From The Gut Uppity Wisconsin Varied Video VidiotSpeak Watching Those We Chose Welcome to the Revolution Whispers from the Wild Worldwide Sawdust Wounded Times WWJV4 ~ Who Would Jesus Vote For?

Atheist Blogroll: 1 2 3 Religious Comics 2000 Years of Deception A bordo del "Otto Neurath" A Daily Dose of Doubt A Division by Zer0 A Goat Called Nebulous A Godless Nation A Human Mind A Load of Bright A Veritable Plethora A Whore in the Temple of Reason A-Deistic AA Aardvarchaeology AASAUF About: Agnosticism / Atheism Aces Full of Links Action Skeptics After Faith Agnostic Atheism Agnostic Universe Blog aidan maconachy blog Ain't Christian Al-Kafir Akbar! Alexander the Atheist Altoona Atheist Am I mad, or is the world? Amused Muse An Apostate's Chapel An Atheist Homeschooler An Atheistic View of the World An Enlightened Observer Anal Iced Bible And That's How You Live With A Curse Anders Rasmussen Blog Angels Depart Angry Astronomer Answers in Genesis BUSTED! Arcis Logos Ateistbloggen Atheism and Coffee Atheism Online Atheism Sucks - sucks Atheism through rationalism and science atheism | Atheism: Proving The Negative Atheist Armaments Atheist Blogs Aggregated Atheist Ethicist Atheist Ethics Atheist Girl ATHEIST HAVEN Atheist Housewife Atheist Hussy Atheist Media Blog Atheist Momma Atheist Movies Atheist Peace Atheist Revolution Atheist Tuesday Atheista Atheisthought Atheistkiwi's Weblog Atheists Rule! AtheisTube atheoi.ORG Atheology Austin Atheist Anonymous Australian Atheist Author of Confusion Axis of Jared Aye! Ayrshire Blog Babble, bullshit, blasphemy and being. Bay of Fundie Beaman's World Being Human Ben's Place Berto: Philosophy Monkey Bert's Blog Beyond Belief BHA Science Group Bible Study for Atheists biblioblography bits of starstuff Bjorn & Jeannette's Blog Black Sun Journal Bligbi Blog of the Big E Blogue de Mathieu Demers blurp Bob Kowalski bore me to tears Born Again Atheist brainstorms Breaking Spells Buridan's Ass By The Book Comics cabhara's zeitgeist Can't make a difference CaroLINES CHADMAC Speaks Choosing Atheism CHRISTIAN PWNAGE 101 Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Circular Reasoning Cogita Tute - Think For Yourself Coming Out Godless Confessions of an Anonymous Coward Cosmic Variance Crazy Christian Chain Emails Culture for all Culture War Foot Soldier Daily Atheist DAILY BBG Dark Christianity Dark Matter, USA Dark Side of Mars darwinian remiix Darwin's Dagger Daylight Atheism Debunking Christianity Deep Thoughts Deeply Blasphemous Desperately Seeking Ethics and Reason Deutschland Uber Elvis DEVOUT Atheist Godless Grief Diary of a Teenage Atheist Did a guy named Phil start Philosophy? Die Eigenheit Dikkii's Diatribe Dime a dozen Disaffected and it Feels So Good discernible chaos Discussions in Existence Disgusted Beyond Belief Dispatches from the Culture Wars do not read this blog Dorset Humanists blog DOUBTING FAITH? Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge Dragged From the Bottom Drunken Tune Dubito Ergo Sum Duplicitous Primates Dwindling In Unbelief Easy to be Entreated Ecstathy Edward T. Babinski Elaine Vigneault Elliptica EnoNomi EonBlue evanescent Everyday Atheism Everyday Humanist Everything Is Pointless Evolution Evolutionary Middleman EvolutionBlog Evolved and Rational exapologist ExChristian.Net Excursions into the mundane and the revealing... Exercise in Futility Expletive Deleted Explicit Atheist f think faith in honest doubt Fear No Atheist Feersum Endjinn Fish Wars on Cars Five Public Opinions Fleeing Nergal, Seeking Stars Flex Your Head Flumadiddle Free Infidel Free Mind Joe FreeThought by a FreeThinker Freethought Weekly FreThink Friendly Atheist Genesis-fel Geoff Arnold GlobeLinkCircadian God Be Gone - Atheist News God is for Suckers! Godless in America Godless on the Wasatch Front goldbricker Goosing the Antithesis Gospel of Reason Gratuitous Common Sense Greg Hartnett Greg Laden's Blog Greta Christina's Blog Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes Hayleys Paranormal Blog Heathen.TV Hellbound Alleee hell's handmaiden Homo economicus' Weblog Honjii's Harangues Human Psyche of J.D. Crow Humans: The Other White Meat I Am An Atheist I Never Shut Up I traded my soul for happiness Ian's Brain Ice Station Tango In Defence Of Reason In the grip of hysteria Incessant Expressions INFIDELIS MAXIMUS Infinite monkeys, infinite keyboards Infophilia Inkblot Icon Interested Interesting Irked off it's about time izzworld dot net Jewish Atheist Joe's Big Blog Judith's thought-provoking hard-hitting journal Juke of Flow Just a whisper in the wind Just Another Atheist Jyunri Kankei K H A L A S ! Kill The Afterlife King Aardvark Le Contestataire le tiers monde leaping rabbit/lapin sauteur Leicester Secularist Let There Be Light Letters from a broad Liars, Lunatics and What's Left Liberal Debutante Life & Otherwise Life According to Mike White Life before death Life is an adventure Life Without Faith Life, the Universe and Everything Lifecruiser Living with Missy and other thoughts LOL god Look at the Bright's Side louis' blog Love the Nimbu Lubab No More lynn's daughter, thinking Masala Skeptic Matt's Notepad Mechanical Crowds Meet An Atheist Memoirs of a (G)a(y)theist Memoirs of an ex-Christian Mere Skepticism Midwest Atheist Migrations Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant mindcore MINISTER OF RANTS Mirth, Musings, & More Misc. Musing mister jebs blog Modern Agnostic Modern Atheist Much ado about nothing My Case Against God My Elemental Muse My Goddless Drama My Life Thinly Disguised as Groove My Single Mom Life Nanovirus Naturalistic Atheism Neural Gourmet New Humanist Blog Nicest Girl and Destroyer of Planets Nick Harding No Double Standards No Gods Allowed No More Hornets No more Mr. Nice Guy! NO SCIENCE ALLOWED Non Credo Deus Non-Prophet North Alabama Rant Nothing Is Sacred Nullifidian Nut Watch Obscene Desserts olio Oliver Benen On Fire For Reason on the street and in my head One Fewer God onegoodmove Onion Breath Onwards and Forwards Open Parachute Order of St. Nick Our Freedom of Espresso Outchurched Oz Atheist's Weblog parenthetical remarks Personal Evolution Pharyngula Philosophers' Playground physicshead Pink Prozac Pinoy Atheist Planet Atheism Planet Humanism Plonka's Blog Podblack Blog Polypyloctomy Pooflingers Anonymous Post Thought Primordial Blog Principles of Parsimony Prose Justice Protium the Heathen Psychodiva's Mutterings QuarkScrew Quintessential Rambling quird Radical Atheist Ramblings Ramblings of an Atheist Undergrad Random Intelligence Rank Atheism Rational Expression Rational Mom Re-imagine Ritual Reasonable Doubts Recalcitrance Reeding and Writing Religion is Bullshit ! REV. ART'S ATHEIST PIN-UPS! Rev. BigDumbChimp Reverend Mark J. Seydel Richard Carrier Blogs Rideo ergo sum Robert's Thought's Ron's Rants Rupture the Rapture Russell's Teapot RWANDAN ATHEIST Saint Gasoline Salad Is Slaughter Salient Sans God Scary Reasoner Science: The Gap Filler Scripture For Skeptics SDARI Sean the Blogonaut Secular Humanism with a human face See For Yourself Shared Difference Silly Humans Situation normal Skeptic Rant Skeptical Personal Development Skeptico Skepticum Skeptic's Play So long, and thanks for all the guilt! Societal (R)evolution Son Shines Zee 365 Southern Atheist Spanish Inquisitor Splendid Elles Spoliarium stacy, interrupted Stardust Musings and Thoughts for the Freethinker Stargazer Staring At Empty Pages State of Protest Steven Carr's Blog Strange Land Strappado Stupid Evil Bastard Suddenly South Summer Squirrel Tabula rasa tales of an ordinary girl Talk Reason Talking to Theists Tangled Up In Blue Guy Tarpan's Blog Televangelists with Toupees Terahertz - From Physics to Life Terminal Atheist Thank God I'm An Atheist The Affable Atheist The Allen Zone The Angry Atheist The Anonymous Atheist The Apostate The Ateist Endeavor The Atheist Blog the atheist chronicles The Atheist Effect The Atheist Experience The Atheist Handbook The Atheist Jew The Atheist Mama The Atheist Resistance The Atheist Response The Atheocracy The Atheologist The Bach The Barefoot Bum The Blasphemous The Blog of M'Gath The Cat Ranch The Choice is Now The Chronicles of Gorthos The Conscious Earth The Daily Cat Chase The Eloquent Atheist The Eternal Gaijin The Eupraxsopher The Evolution Will Not Be Evangelized The Flying Bagpiper The Flying Trilobite The Frame Problem The Freethought Cafe The Fundy Post The Gay Black Jew The Gaytheist Agenda The God Complex the God-jeering ATHEIST The Godless Grief The Good Atheist The Great Realization The Greenbelt The Happy New Atheist The Happy, Religion Free Family The Homeless Atheist The Honest Doubter The Humanist Life The Humanist Observer The Huntress' Domain The Inanity that is Life The Incomer The Information Paradox The Inoculated Mind The Iron Chariot The Jesus Myth The Jewish Atheist The Labour Humanist The Libertarian Defender The Lippard Blog the LITTLE things The Mary Blog the meme pool The Mighty Thor The Mutt's Nuts The Nate and Di Show The Natural Skeptic The New Atheist The New Horizon The O Project The One With Aldacron The Pagan Prattle Online The Panda's Thumb The Passionate Skeptic The People's Republic Of Newport The Perplexed Observer the post-bicameral mind The Primate Diaries The Proud Atheist The Psycho Atheist The Questionable Authority The Rad Guy Blog The Rambling Idiot The Raving Atheist the religious atheist The Renegade Writings the right of reason The Right Wing Professor's Blog the Science Ethicist The Science Pundit The Second Mouses Guide to Life The Second Oldest Question The Secular Outpost The Secular-Man Blog (An Oasis of Clear Thinking) The Serenity of Reason The Seven Solitudes The shadows of an open mind The Skeptic Review the skeptical alchemist The Smug Baldy Speaks The Strong Atheist The Stubborn Curmudgeon! The Thermal Vent The Thinkers' Podium The Uncredible Hallq The Underground Unbeliever The Uninformed Suburban Housewife The Uninspired Manifesto The Untraditionalist The View from Here The Water is Poison The Word and The Golden Monkey The Zen Of G These Twisted Times They Promised Us Jetpacks and We Got Blogs Thought Theater Tidbits for Atheists Tolerance and Peace toomanytribbles Toxic thought waste site Trifling Ideas Trinity's Christian Dairy UberKuh Ungodly Cynic Unorthodox Atheism Unscrewing The Inscrutable Uri Kalish - Urikalization Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy Velocity Inversion Vetenskap & F�rnuft View From Earth Villa Nandes Wanderin' Weeta WASP Way of the Mind We have a voice Why Believe? Why Dont You Blog? Wild-Eyed Atheist Boy Wishwords Without Gods WORKS WITHOUT FAITH Yet Another Atheist Blog Yet Another Blog You Made Me Say It Young Earth Creationists Anonymous Zen Curmudgeon Zen of Zero zenbullets

Blogtopia (yes, skippy coined the phrase): A-Deistic A.Word.A.Day Aetiology alicublog AlterNet American Prospect Americana Anal Iced Bible Angry Atheist Anonymous Liberal Apostate August J. Pollak Badtux the Snarky Penguin Ben Buckman Blog from Hell Blue man in a Red district Bob Geiger Bob Harris Bodwyn Wook Bootstrapping Andrew Sullivan Bronze Blog Buridan's Ass Busy, Busy, Busy Butterflies and Wheels By Ken Levine Celtic Chimp Choice is Now, The Christopher Hayes Combat Philosopher Contrary Brin Crone Speaks Crooks and Liars Culture, Ideas and Comic Books Daily Howler Daily WTF Dark and Sinister Force for Good David Sirota de-conversion Deep Thoughts Democrats Now Disgusted Beyond Belief DownWithTyranny! Early Days of a Better Nation Echidne of the Snakes Evolved and Rational Ezra Klein Fables of the reconstruction Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting Film Atheist Five Public Opinions Flight Level 390 Freakonomics Blog Freemania FreeThought by a FreeThinker Friendly Atheist Fundy Post Geeks And Technology Geoff Arnold Ghastly's Ghastly Journal Gideonse Bible God is for Suckers! goldbricker Greta Christina's Blog HogBlog Hot Dogs, Pretzels, and Perplexing Questions Hullabaloo Ideas Indigent A-hole Informed Comment Inscription Instaputz James Randi Educational Foundation Joel on Software Jon Swift LAist Largest Minority Made By Monkeys Mike the Mad Biologist Nation NonSequitur occRadio Often Right, Rarely Correct Old New Thing Only In America (Himself) Open Reading Frame Opinions of Doron Zeilberger Orcinus Osterley Times Pandagon Pat Condell Pharyngula PhysioProf Planet Atheism Planet Humanism Plognark Political Crank PSoTD Ramblings (Ron Murphy) Richard Dawkins Rosabelle ROTUS Rude Pundit Saint Gasoline Scientia Natura Secular Coalition for America Secular Thoughts Shakespeare's Sister Skeptico skippy the bush kangaroo SlowpokeBlog Snapshots from an Ordinary Life Stephen Law Talking Philosophy Talking Points Memo Techdirt. Thalesian Fools Think Progress Thinker's Podium This Modern World Thoughts from a Sandwich Tiny Revolution TomDispatch + busblog TPM Online Truth, Justice & Peace Truthdig Unabashed Atheist virtual philosopher Welcome to Pottersville Wetmachine Whore in the Temple of Reason Wolcott's Blog You Made Me Say It ywut