May 29, 2011

Secularism, Theism And The Emergence Of A Global Morality And Civilization

UPDATE:  See Postscript, below.

Currently there are approximately 6.9 billion people on earth.  A conservative estimate of 4.71 billion, approximately 67%, believe in supernatural beings and forces.  Here's a breakdown by religious belief:

Hinduism:  .95 billion
Judaism: .13 billion
Islam:  1.3 billion
Christianity:  1.9 billion
Animism:  .23 billion
Other Theisms:  .2 billion

The remaining 2.19 billion, or 33%, include Buddhists and secularists such as atheists, humanists and agnostics.

Belief in supernatural beings and forces most likely began after our ancestors had invented symbolic speech and language, approximately 100,000BP.  Our ancestors may have begun to think symbolically before this in that there is compelling evidence that other animals - the great apes, dogs, dolphins, and others - also think symbolically though to a lesser degree and effect than humans.

With the advent of symbolic speech and language came the attendant ability to think of and comment in detail on events in the past and present, and possible events in the future.  The ability to consider and discuss these events and their possible causes and effects gave rise to numerous explanations for the origin and workings of the forces of Nature and the objects of the day and night sky.  Among these explanations were the invention of supernatural forces and human-like and nonhuman-like gods.

May 21, 2011

Our Future In Nature - Human Dignity, Democracy, Earth Stewardship


You are a child of the universe,
No less than the trees and the stars;
You have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

- From Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, 1927

It is Sunday, May 22, 2011 in East Africa, the Cradle of Humankind.  If you are reading this, you were not yesterday raptured into heaven as was predicted by evangelical Christian Harold Camping.  Either you were not worthy of God's heaven or Camping's prediction was wrong.  In all seriousness, there is a viable future for Humankind, here, on Earth, with each other.  Looking toward and building our future soberly, scientifically, humanely will suffice.  I believe it is our only real chance to survive and prosper.

As I have written elsewhere on this blog, I am optimistic that Humankind will eventually bring into existence the global morally and civilization that we have begun and are building.  This new Earth ethic and unified approach to achieving and maintaining human dignity, peacefully resolving conflict, and sustaining the biosphere through our stewardship are the most important and imperative tasks of our present.  To fail will mean the loss of our humanity, community of cultures, and home in the Universe.

May 18, 2011

The End Of The World ~ Many Believe It Will Begin On May 21, 2011 With The Rapture

Yes, the last day will be May 21, 2011, according to Harold Camping, an evangelical Christian in California. 

If you are around on May 22, it means you were not one of the chosen ones who were raptured up to heaven by Jesus.  You will still have five more months to mill about and try converting to Christianity before the Earth is destroyed on October 21.  But I'm told it will be too late for conversion after May 21.  It seems the Christian God allows conversions from prison cells and deathbeds, but for some reason not at the end of the world.  It appears that you are acceptable into Heaven if you accept God based on faith before the rapture, but not if you have merely witnessed and are convinced of His omnipotence as evidenced by His son's return and the rapture.  Doesn't seem like a kind, loving, perfect God - more like a selfish, vengeful, stingy one to me.  But who am I to judge....

May 16, 2011

Religion And Science Compete To Influence Humankind - Issues, Proofs, Venues, and Implications

The Myth of Separate Magisteria, Susan Jacoby, Big Questions Online, October 7, 2010
How Did God Get Started?
Haiti and the Hypocrisy of Christian Theology
A Synthesis of Science and Religion - Is One Needed?  Is One Possible?
Is scientific knowledge as good or better than religion as a basis for values and morals?
Author Offers Evolutionary Explanation of Religion
Where The Substance Really Isn't by Tim Callahan, a review of Where The Conflict Really Lies: Science Religion and Naturalism by Alvin Plantinga, eSkeptic, November 2, 2011

Where and how science and religion compete and are therefore in conflict:
  • In terms of issues:  Truth, Morality
  • In terms of proof and evidence:  Methods, Standards
  • In terms of locale/context:  The Individual, Education, Societal Governance, Global Cooperation
  • In terms of implications for the biosphere:  Plant and Animal (including Humankind) Survival and Prosperity
It is inaccurate to say that science has been or is actively, directly competing with religion in terms of gaining a greater influence over Humankind.  Science did not arise as a means of, or for the sake of, challenging religion.  It arose as a human generated form of knowledge motivated by curiosity and based on findings derived from observation and experiment.  That it came into conflict with religion resulted from a growing amount of demonstrable information that conflicted with religious accounts of the same phenomena, and the reaction of religion's leaders to the information and explanations that science arrived at concerning the matter and processes found on Earth, in Life, and in the Universe.  Religious leaders did not want to change their views based on these new ideas.  Today, many still don't want to.  But many others have changed their amended their truth by accepting the findings of science, but retained a belief in God as the creative, motive force behind it all.  Others, Biblical literalists and fundamentalist Christians, have rejected those truths of science that conflict with their revealed truth, particularly about the origins and evolution of Earth and its life, including humans.

May 6, 2011

Human Evolution - Education Resources and Evidence

A great resource on human evolution (with links) put together by Caitlin Schrein, anthropology doctoral candidate at Arizona State University:

Human Evolution Education Resources, paleophile, May 4, 2011

Here's another great site on human evolution by Jim Foley where you can see photos of the fossils and more:

Fossil Hominids:  The Evidence for Human Evolution

May 5, 2011

National Day of Reason - May 5, 2011

Congressional Floor Statement:  Supporting the National Day of Reason by Pete Stark, House of Representatives

For the Congressional Record
May 5, 2011

Statement of Congressman Pete Stark Recognizing the National Day of Reason

MR. STARK: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Thursday, May 5, 2011 as the 2011 National Day of Reason.

The National Day of Reason, observed by millions of people in this country and around the world since 2003, celebrates the application of reason and the positive impacts it has had on humanity.  Reason and rational discourse have the power to improve living conditions around the world and cultivate intelligent, moral, and ethical interactions among people.

Reason and rational thinking have made our country great. The Constitution of the United States of America is based upon the philosophies developed during the historical Age of Reason and the idea that citizens engaging in rational discourse and decision-making can govern themselves.  The Constitution also contains a strong separation of church and state, making it clear that government should continue to be built on reason.

May 3, 2011

Why Americans Dislike Atheists - Two Views, One Subtle The Other Bare-Knuckle

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. - Stephen F. Roberts

UPDATE:
Atheism in America, FT Magazine, February 3, 2011
A New Fox Poll on Evolution, National Center for Science Education, September 7, 2011
Why U.S. Is Not a Christian Nation by Kenneth C. Davis, CNN Opinion, July 4, 2011
A.C. Grayling:  "How can you be a militant atheist?  It's like sleeping furiously," The Guardian, April 3, 2011

ORIGINAL POST
Atheists fed up?  Believe it! by Gregory Paul, The Washington Post, June 16, 2011

Why do Americans still dislike atheists? by Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman, The Washington Post, April 29, 2011

"Rarely denounced by the mainstream, this stunning anti-atheist discrimination is egged on by Christian conservatives who stridently — and uncivilly — declare that the lack of godly faith is detrimental to society, rendering nonbelievers intrinsically suspect and second-class citizens."
...
"As with other national minority groups, atheism is enjoying rapid growth. Despite the bigotry, the number of American nontheists has tripled as a proportion of the general population since the 1960s. Younger generations’ tolerance for the endless disputes of religion is waning fast. Surveys designed to overcome the understandable reluctance to admit atheism have found that as many as 60 million Americans — a fifth of the population — are not believers. Our nonreligious compatriots should be accorded the same respect as other minorities."
~ ~ ~ ~
A more in-depth, less polite (to put it mildly) treatment of religion, what atheism is today, and why so many Americans have misconceptions about it can be found in A Voice of Reason in an Unreasonable World:  The Rise of Atheism on Planet Earth by Al Stefanelli (2011).  Stefanelli is a journalist and a former Baptist minister, preacher and evangelist.  He became an atheist and founded the United Atheist Front in 2005.

May 2, 2011

Time Does Not Objectively Exist - Scientists Say It Is Only Our Numerical Ordering Of Change

Photo credit:  Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE
A Science Without Time by Gene Tracy, Aeon, April 25, 2016

Did Time Begin With A Bang? by Raymond Tallis, Tallis in Wonderland in Philosophy Now, September/October 2012

ORIGINAL POST
Scientists Suggest Spacetime Has No Time Dimension, PHYSORG.COM, April 25, 2011

The implications of these ideas are amazing!  I'm not sure I understand the contents of the link, but here is what I think the researchers are talking about:

Think of our expanding Universe - galaxies are becoming further and further apart from each other.  Scientists can measure the distance one galaxy moves relative to another.  We typically give one location a number, say, 1, and observe that the galaxy is moving away from location 1 relative to another galaxy.  We assign the number 2 to the location of the galaxy after it has moved from location 1.