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Chilean miners’ altruism disproves evolution?

This morning, Chuck Colson published an article in which he presents the Chilean miners’ rescue story in contrast to what he understands, or more specifically what he doesn’t understand, about evolution. I am responding here on my blog with a request for a discussion. I have many friends and family who believe the literal young earth creation story, and I welcome their input here.

Colson makes this assumption concerning “survival of the fittest”.

… A news man from the scene choked up while reporting it. You know who else should be surprised: Darwinians. They believe the race has evolved through survival of the fittest. Neo-Darwinism cannot explain altruism like that displayed by the miners. At best, it can offer a superficially plausible explanation for what they call “cooperation.”

He mentions Richard Dawkins book The Selfish Gene, but it seems he focuses on the title of the book without respect to its content. Evolution has an explanation for altruism, but Colson’s reference indicates that he hasn’t done his research. Altruism is a survival strategy. Social animals cannot survive without it.

… we know that this kind of altruism is uniquely human. Females of other species will fight to the death to defend their young, but another female’s young? Never.

See examples of altruism in the animal world. A quick search for “evolution altruism” shows us that Colson simply isn’t interested in scientific research.

Please read the rest of Colson’s article and leave your comments here on my post.

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The Flying Spaghetti Monster by Sarah Pierce

On this, the first of May 2010, I am proud to release this piece of sacred art which I commissioned from Sarah Pierce. I welcome you to join me in silent reverence to His Savoriness, the Noodle in the Sky, our Saucy Master, The Flying Spaghetti Monster. May you be forever touched by His Noodly Appendage.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster

This piece is licensed Creative Commons: Attribution. Please re-use however you like as long as it is non-commercial and with Attribution to Sarah Pierce. If you are interested in using this commercially, please contact me through

Creative Commons License

For more information about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, see the links below.

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Guest post by Sarah: Why your theory matters

A few days ago, I made a request. “I am looking for examples of young earth creation scientists whose literalist Bible belief has assisted them in a helpful discovery.” The request was misunderstood as I expected. Creationists don’t generally use the belief of the six-day creation story (where God simply spoke everything into existence) as a tool to form hypotheses, to define their expectations that lead them through research and discovery. Since they don’t normally think using this methodology, so the principle to them seems unimportant. I bring it up because I have found it important to have a developed theoretical foundation.

(Quoting Sarah)
…. The reason we want to know about this question is because we are familiar with how the principle works coming from an understanding of evolution.

The great thing about science is it is predictive. It makes concrete “prophecies” if you will. Things like “if x is true, then y must also be true.” Evolution, being a vast and thorough theory has made and fulfilled many predictions. An example:

Evolution declares that snakes evolved from lizards. A specialist in venom asked the question, “Where did venom come from? How did it evolve?” If snakes came from lizards, then lizards must have some of the compounds required to be venomous. Only two lizards out of 5,000 are known to be toxic: the gila monster and the bearded lizard. It was assumed they maintained some highly acidic bacteria in their saliva that was corrosive to most organisms. The question of where venom came from required an answer congruent with evolution, else the theory would be in trouble. Accepting that evolution is true the answer must necessarily lie in the glands of lizards. He looked exactly there and found that it was not strong bacteria causing toxicity in these two lizards, but a simple, slow venom. These are the older, simpler compounds that were concentrated and strengthened in snake venoms. What’s more is every lizard is equipped with these compounds, which function as digestive aids! Viola!… See more

Another example of how the theory of evolution is predictive is with a hawk moth and the madascar orchid. Hawk moths and orchids co-evolved so tightly that these moths feed only on this flower, and the flower is pollinated only by these moths. This is ensured by the depth of the cavity in the flower that holds the rich nectar. The depth is matched only and exactly by the length of the moth’s proboscis. This method is so successful that species of these two genus have been sectioned off into unique pairs; you can tell what species of moth is present in the region by the flower, and vice versa. One orchid was discovered whose nectar cavity had receded 12″ deep, and no moth was yet discovered whose proboscis could reach it. The search was on, and lo, 40 years later, it yielded an as yet undiscovered hawk moth species meeting exactly the specifications predicted by evolution; a moth with a 12″ mouth.

It works retroactively too. This is a flounder: It has both it’s eyes on one side of it’s body. It’s a bizarrely asymmetrical animal that has had evolutionary biologists scratching their heads for years, including Darwin himself. It seemed implausible that a fish would gradually move its eye over its head for such a pointed purpose with no benefit in between. A fish having the same morphology and genetics with an eye moving halfway around the head *must* exist. The problem was shelved until the Heteronectus Chaneti fossil was found. There was no reason to believe such a thing existed, except that evolution demanded there be one. It was the logical conclusion that must necessarily be true by extension if evolution is also true.

In this way evolution has made countless predictions that are very specific. These animals must exist in a specific location and a specific era with specified traits. If it’s a fossil it can’t be found in the wrong rock or the wrong continent. The predictions are concise and consistent with the theory, and many bushels of them have been vindicated. It is this cycle of theory and predictive hypothesis that I have not been able to fathom applying to creationism, and I was hoping someone could bridge the gap in my imagination.

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A personal introspection for my Christian friends

This is the context of my state of sincerity during my struggle with faith and eventual “falling away”. Since sincerity is not a measure of truth, you might safely listen to this personal part without a defensive guard.

What went wrong with me when my mind changed? When you hear the arguments I make, some will seem ridiculous to you. At some point in your perspective, my logic breaks down. You may become frustrated and think something like “Satan lied to him” or “He chose to believe in man’s wisdom over God’s.” Statements like that are frequent and natural but serve merely as excuses not to examine my rational progression. If you actually want to understand me, look at that which seems ludicrous. Focus on why those things seem so backward to you and try to imagine what I might have honestly gone through to come to those strange conclusions. How would an otherwise intelligent person fall into these obviously incorrect assumptions?

If I take this same advice and take on a Christian perspective, I am transported back to when I was living the Christian life, thoroughly familiar with the apologetics. I had the same zealous faith that Christians have within the modern Pentecostal branch of the church tree. I was a student of the Bible. I felt the warmth sweep over me at the altar so many times. I prayed in earnest to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and after some experimentation and a relinquishment of ego, I began to speak in tongues. Attaining glossolalia was a valued confirmation of my Christian advancement. While on the Christian path, I desperately wished to progress to a level of faith and submission to God that I imagined might look something like a robed monk, who had little attachment to this physical world and could get by without excess in food, lust or possessions. My projected future-self was very much Christ-like, with a gentle humility mixed with a deep rage for the evil of this world. In wondering how I might become this ideal, I knew I had to first earn a profound understanding of the fundamentals of my belief. The resolution of those basic questions that came to mind as a young believer were so important that I just could not put them aside with the intention to fill in the blanks later on in my journey. “How are we so sure about all this?”

“If I was born into the standard local religion of a foreign culture and immersed into a similarly relevant system of apologetics, could I really be damned due to poor placement?”

“Why would an omniscient God need to set up humanity for failure?”

“How did the people before Jesus achieve salvation?”

“How can God be jealous?”

“Does the corrupt physical mind really get to choose the eternal fate of the soul?”

“Shouldn’t the answers to these questions be simple?”

My honest doubts were not unique, I knew. Others around me in praise services appeared to me convincing in their complete rapture, but I knew they were at least part-acting. I tried some of the time to put on the character of confidence during collective worship. It felt grossly dishonest, and I was turned off by the stylistic expression of the extreme charisma I observed in the Assemblies of God and similar churches. Why was this outward expression so important when we weren’t focusing our energy on the foundation of theology? In order to concentrate on the tenets of faith apart from the distasteful, impassioned acting, I occasionally visited more somber services that exhibited respectful reflection.

Whether I was attending one of those “dead churches” or the rock and roll services of my youth, I stayed critically aware of the beliefs that pivot a soul to or from damnation. Those are the things that matter. How can one simply choose to believe in his heart that Jesus is God? How can I really decide to believe something so important without a very good reason? Belief in the promises of God would have to wait until I could first believe in the authority from which I heard them. The big promise of gaining eternal life was only a layer in the background that I could hope to uncover once I had worked out the oddly blurry puzzle in front of me. If this truth we share is so readily apparent, freely given, why can’t I make clear sense of the first step? If everyone on earth is given at least one chance to hear and accept The Good News, does my hearing it retold several times a week throughout my life make me even more damned for not really getting it? Isn’t it true that I am one of the luckiest of souls since I have been graciously dropped right into the family of a pastor who actually teaches others this truth that happens to be the one and only universal truth in a sea of lies? What are the odds? Did I dare to test God and ask him to show Himself to me to clarify my doubt? With a fervent determination, I sought that my personal relationship with the Creator would be thorough. I faced my questions bravely. There would be no accepting half-answers to this – the ultimate decision – like “It is probably right” or “Just to be safe” or “People whom I trust have accepted it”.

I really wanted Christianity to work, and I gave it my heart. How many more years would I be required to wait for decent responses to my inquiries? If my faith was not strengthened by Christian fellowship or the teachings of great preachers or reading and re-reading the Bible or late nights of earnest prayer, should I look to outside perspectives? Could something in the secular world satisfy my need for understanding? Since I already knew The Gospel, would God appear to me more clearly through His creation?

It is the observation of the natural world without the bias assumed by religion which resulted in my conscious letting go of faith. Skepticism is my new virtue. I found answers. I haven’t found all of them, but my rational method satisfies me. Now that I look back, I think I would have stayed a Christian if my circumstances had not forced me to consider the weight of the choice. If it were not stressed with such eternal importance, I might have casually considered it a nice social club.


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Reflecting on my dad, the minister

In response to my last post, my dad offered some of his perspective to me on Facebook. We hold very different views about which we each feel strongly. Although he has had a general sense of this division for some time, I imagine that my recent boldness causes him a deep sadness about my spiritual status. I don’t wish for this, as I know his concern is genuine. He should know that my opposing beliefs do not make him seem an idiot or unintellectual to me. He has chosen his beliefs for his own personal reasons. I also hope he does not despair that he somehow messed up as a father and teacher to me. I see an overall goodness in him, and I thank him for using his sense of human compassion.

I fully honor the decisions he must have made at some point NOT to follow the highly immoral role-models in Christian and Jewish scriptures. He doesn’t act on thoughts of child sacrifice that might pop into his head. He doesn’t murder his neighbors when a voice from above said that their land is now his. He doesn’t own concubines. He doesn’t own slaves. He doesn’t offer to burn his children so that God will do him a favor. He doesn’t offer his daughters to be raped by the locals in order to protect visiting male strangers from being homosexually defiled. He has never slaughtered entire races because they were simply not God’s chosen people. He doesn’t kill the first-born of an entire nation to make a point. He didn’t sacrifice his son to save the world he made…. from himself. My dad is not an egotistical, greedy faith healer or a womans health clinic bomber or a suicide-cult leader, Muslim jihadist, child-molesting priest, or a religious-fundamentalism-guided lawmaker. He shows real love and care for his family and appreciates the natural world. All these things are true because he accepts a common human ethic while rejecting the moral extremities that are often demanded by religion. Through his initial example, I have also learned these same standards, and although someone in his position is required accept these real and tangible actions as an undeniable part of God’s perfect and holy plan for our existence, his actions do not add to this list of atrocities. He is a decent human. For this, he has my respect.

Sorry to use you in my sermon, dad.


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“So what prompted the change to atheism?”

An old friend recently asked me a question that got me started on this long-winded response. I thought I would post it here. I’ll write more about my Christian childhood later to give this some context.

“So what prompted the change to atheism?” Well, a Christian hurt me, and now I’m mad at God. ….. No, totally just kidding, but that seems to be the most often assumed “cause” that I hear from religious people who haven’t taken the time to listen to a de-conversion story. My mom used to ask who it was that hurt me and what happened to me. I really have no serious issue directly with any individual Christian that I’ve met personally. I think Christians are simply overwhelmed by systematic religious fear. “Love God or else!” It’s not really their fault. This is a tangent to answering the question directly, but I just want to be clear that my decisions on faith and the supernatural are not out of rebellion or a vendetta or as a reaction to some non-related personal offense.

Why the change? The short answer is that I see no rational reason to choose to believe in a faith-based worldview. Below is a somewhat disjointed summary of my views on both Christianity and religion in general. Consider it a draft from a non-writer. ; )

The usual reasons offered for being religious can be summarized as either the promise of eternal life / punishment or religious life is happier / more moral / good for humanity. I don’t include the statement “I just know in my heart that X is true.” as a reason, because that is only a statement about how strongly the belief is held and not actually any kind of argument.

In response to the promise of eternal life or death, historical records show that the various afterlife stories have been continually made up or modernized to fit ongoing changes in culture. They are just stories from human imagination which are used to influence people. They are pretty entertaining to listen to, especially in succession.

In response to statements that suggest that religion improves our everyday life, consider religious wars, hindrances to science, and countless inhumane actions perpetrated by religious institutions. Humanity is, overall, worse off for being religious. Of course, most any religious person would respond to that with, “Yes, all those religions other than my own cause great harm to the world.” … but you can see the inherent problem in that kind of thinking. If you’re not convinced, take a look at some religious perspectives other than the ones with which you are most familiar. It is natural to think only of the positive effects of one’s own religious affiliation and to disbelieve the negative.

The concept of morality across cultures and time has been pretty much standard. Some religions claim to be the source of morality (a moral compass), but then why do the basics of common morality, ideas like be nice, don’t murder or steal, care for children, make sense to a rational person in the absence of religion? Those ideas are common among humans simply because they make good sense for the health and continuance of humans. An individual who acts for his own benefit at the expense of others in his community (i.e. raping children) has to then deal with the consequences directly from the community. It works itself out even without divinely inspired fear or love. Good and bad have been defined over time through natural human development.

I guess there is another pro-religion reason I have heard somewhat often. “We are here in a universe, therefore something must have created it.” That doesn’t make sense to me. What we do know is that we are here and that the universe exists, but that is all we really can observe. That a “god” entity created us in order to have pets or to be loved is simply an imaginative idea to consider, not at all an observation.

I have found it important to make a distinction between truth and opinion when considering religion. There are methodical, empirical ways to test the truth of an idea, but simply saying “The belief of a certain idea makes one happier” gives no weight to the authenticity of that idea. Some people say they are happier with a relationship with Jesus than without. I am sure they feel that and honestly believe that to be true. I believed it honestly as well. Since then, my own experience has been that the occasional feelings of religious ecstasy are self-induced. I can have similar experiences from many other sources. My happiness now is more genuine than I previously knew it could be. I don’t have to put aside those annoying questions anymore. Doubt is good. Faith is merely choosing to reject reason and go along with some other person’s ideas.

What about the in-errancy of the Bible (or other religious book)? Listen to a less-biased historical perspective. Those that claim Biblical in-errancy will blindy defend it. The chaotic formation of that collection of writings is well documented from reputable and verifiable research. It is not the singular or profound “Word of God” its followers claim it to be. It was gathered with many revisions over time, mostly due to political motivations.

“Why not just be like Jesus who taught love and forgiveness?” Apart from the absence of that character in historical record, why get your morality from a social mentor who supported slavery? Why would he slaughter a bunch of pigs for no reason? Why tell his disciples to steal a donkey? If it is wrong now, it was wrong then. Defenders of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, are defending moral relativism according to cultural norms of the time. If God actually frequently commanded genocide including children and animals, as well as rape and child sacrifice, then the God of today would still be responsible for that hateful behavior. The statement “God is love” requires that “love” be severely redefined. It is comforting to me that there isn’t actually anything I have seen that indicates that such a terrible, jealous, genocidal, emotionally irrational entity exists.

One more point, due to the supposed “unchanging nature of God”, a Christian is often prevented from admitting to being wrong, even in the face of new information. Christian ideas are often in conflict with reality as clearly seen when creationists try to debate with science. Science is a method that definitively requires ongoing correction through cycles of theory and testing. It also uses the process of expert peer review to confirm or deny new research. “Creation Science” is truly an oxymoron since its defenders will not and cannot change their views when the continual flood of evidence supports an ancient universe and Darwinian evolution.

So, why am I becoming more vocal and active about religion? Brad Pitt says it succinctly here. I don’t want to block anyone in their own search for truth, but I do speak out when a concept of faith begins to interfere with public policy or causes the mis-education of our future generations.

So… that’s enough for the summary. These are the views that I have found through a very honest, personal search. I don’t think there is much chance of there being a supernatural being like we humans have imagined in the past, but… I am quite willing to be open to rational discussion and new observations. Please let me know what you think or if you have a question.


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Spammer detection tip for Gmail users

I learned today about a feature in Gmail that allows you to “tag” your email address when you give it to someone or submit it somewhere online. If I were to sign up for a mailing list or service, and I want to know if they might be giving away my address to spammers, I just enter my address as Whenever I receive an email to that address and it didn’t come from the service or site that I gave it to, I know that the address was “leaked”. I can then make a Gmail filter that catches all messages sent to that will mark those messages as spam or simply label them appropriately.

You can also use the “+tagword” to help you sort different categories of emails. For example, I might submit” as my phone service address or for online purchases. It makes it easier later on to sort the types of email I get.

Thanks again Google for not being evil.

More tips here.

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“Maybe it’s the Hamlet she just misquothed”

Tim Minchin is my current favorite musician. … or comedian. cultural commentator?? He understands how insignificant we are and at the same time how important it is that we use our reasoning powers to figure this all out instead of creating a fantasy explanation and then judging others for not having the “faith” you do. /veryshortrant

just youtube him.

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