Monday, October 30, 2006

Join the Atheist Blogroll

Yesterday I happened upon Mojoey's Atheist Blogroll at Deep Thoughts by way of another blog I read frequently. It helps bring together atheists as a force against irrational pious nonsense and the influence of the religious in our daily lives.

If you are an atheist, agnostic or freethinker, then I strongly encourage you to Join the Atheist Blogroll!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Evolution by Default!

Ha! An intriguing thought just occurred to me, one which has the upshot that christians are bound to accept evolution, as I shall now explain.

If you accept that human beings give birth to offspring, then by default you accept evolution by nature of the fact that the offspring are not identical clones of either parent. The offspring have genes which are made of genetic contributions from both parents, and are thus genetically different to the parents. The degree of difference may vary between offspring, but the fact remains that the genes of the child are not the same as one or other parent, i.e. the antithesis to evolution is cloning.

What is really being argued is whether the degree of difference in the genes of offspring to that of their parents proceeds at a rate which shows that human beings could have evolved from more primitive life forms, or whether some man in the sky made everything in seven days.

So what many people refer to as the 'evolution vs. creation' debate should be more correctly termed the 'rate of evolution vs. creation' debate, since it cannot be denied that you and I are different, therfore evolution is evident.


I give you this anecdote as a rumination on a theme provided by another of Custard's posts.

When I was doing my intermediate year of engineering at Canterbury University, I ended up taking some computer science papers, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Part of the reason it was so great is that we could get stuck into some serious problem solving, and often the solutions were quite elegant.

One time we were set an assignment by the lecturer to test our understanding of a particular data structure. It could be done using a brute force approach, which worked fine, except that it sometimes took a long time to get the desired result. After reviewing our individually submitted code, the lecturer asked one girl to get up in front of the students during the next lecture, as she had solved the problem another way. So, up she gets. She has maybe sixty or seventy people waiting with baited breath for her to explain her method to the rest of us. There is silence in the lecture theatre. She launches wide-eyed into some extended quote from the bible - about Noah and the Ark - and starts telling us all about that. The rest of us are looking around at each other, thinking 'is this her explaination or am I dreaming?' After waiting for a while to see if she would get to the point, the lecturer rolls his eyes and prompts her to give the explaination of what she did that solved the problem, which she then did. (I must add that her solution worked fine in the particular context of the assignment, but had the same issue as the brute force method in other contexts. I think the intent of the lecturer was to show that there's more than one way to skin a cat and to give her credit for thinking outside the square.)

Now this girl was really quite smart. Maybe not a genius, but certainly she was talented as far as science was concerned, and sometimes we chatted about physics or computer science when we met in the corridor. Sometimes I helped her with code problems, sometimes she helped me with maths.

After the biblical quote incident, I became aware that she was quite active in a campus christian group. What really stunned me was that this girl who was obviously a scientist at heart could believe such nonsense as the bible. I was shocked and disappointed by the incident, and it made me wonder 'how do christians involved in science manage to reconcile within themselves the conclusions of science and the teachings of their faith, especially those findings which so strongly contradict religious teaching?' These can be almost diametrically opposed on certain issues. I still don't have an answer.

More to the point though, I felt it was quite inappropriate of her to start telling us about what she personally believes, instead of just answering the question, like she'd been asked to. Just because she has made a choice to be a christian doesn't give her the right to inject it into places where it is not warranted. If I got up in front of the students and started ranting about the non-existence of god, I would be no less guilty of inappropriate behaviour.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Whose Job?

It's a shame that this isn't a factual documentary. It seems that cinemas themselves have become the censors, wading into the debate about what the public is allowed to see. Ironically, they appear to have little or no objection to showing films protraying sadistic violence, such as "Saw", or films portraying highly realistic war scenes involving the killing and maiming of thousands, such as "Saving Private Ryan".

I look forward to "Death of a President" arriving here in NZ.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Note to Self

Thought for the day:

Life is like an electric circuit - without resistance, it will be short.