Battleground God: THE GAME

So while looking for resources for my latest project, SeekTheEvidence.org, I came across this little gem located in the depths of the Austhink Library of the “Miscellaneous and Fun section”: http://www.philosophersnet.com/games/god.php

Can your beliefs about religion make it across our intellectual battleground?

In this activity you’ll be asked a series of 17 questions about God and religion. In each case, apart from Question 1, you need to answer True or False. The aim of the activity is not to judge whether these answers are correct or not. Our battleground is that of rational consistency. This means to get across without taking any hits, you’ll need to answer in a way which is rationally consistent. What this means is you need to avoid choosing answers which contradict each other. If you answer in a way which is rationally consistent but which has strange or unpalatable implications, you’ll be forced to bite a bullet.

I found this to be a novel idea; and insightful! —

Congratulations!

You have been awarded the TPM medal of honour! This is our highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity neither being hit nor biting a bullet suggests that your beliefs about God are internally consistent and very well thought out.

A direct hit would have occurred had you answered in a way that implied a logical contradiction. You would have bitten bullets had you responded in ways that required that you held views that most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable. However, you avoided both these fates – and in doing so qualify for our highest award. A fine achievement!

See how you go, and let me know how to go too!

Apologist Box-stuffing

After reading a tweet containing Hamza Andreas Tzorzis‘s name and what he was up to at the International Atheist Convention in Dublin, I thought check out his website.

According to his website, Hamza Andreas Tzorzis is an international public speaker on Islam; He is a writer with articles, essays and commentaries on political philosophy, the philosophy of religion and society; an intellectual activist actively engaging on issues pertaining to religion, social cohesion and politics; is also a researcher with a recent publication on non-Muslim perceptions on Islam and Muslims; and if you want – you can read more here.

However, to me he is a religious apologist – and an amateur one at that.

What’s a religious apologist? A religious apologist defends faith through intellectual avenues, generally trying to demonstrate that science is compatible with religion (by demonstration a personal lack of knowledge about science). The attempt is usually a genuine advancement towards logic and reason rather than emotional appeals; however – common threads between religious apologists include a misunderstanding of various scientific concepts (or the abhorrent contortion of scientific knowledge to “fit in” to a doctrine) and an overall ignorance of (or ignoring of ) fallacies in logic.

For instance, I spoke to a Sikh who was adamant (despite the evidence) that the Heliocentric model was first advocated by the Sikh Guru Nanak Dev Ji. He derived his belief from a quote by the Guru which was written in the 15th century; and used Galileo Galilei as his benchmark; particularly the point that at the time it was not accepted in Europe for Heliocentricism to be true. He was also of the (incorrect) belief that Galileo was the first person to devise a heliocentric solar system.

The Reality

In February 1616, the Catholic Church condemned heliocentrism as “false and contrary to Scripture”.  Subsequently in 1632 Galileo was tried by the Roman Inquisition for publishing his work “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” which was in support of Nicolaus Copernicus‘ heliocentric hypothesis.  Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy” and forced to recant; despite this he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Nicolaus Copernicus’ work on a heliocentric system (titled: “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres)) began around 1510, quite some time before Galileo. Even then, the hypothesis that the Earth rotated the Sun was not new. The earlist record of this was from least 3rd century BCE, which was presented by Aristarchus.

What I really object about Hamza Andreas Tzorzis was the poor use of science in a phamphlet that was recently released called: Do We Have Good Reasons To Believe

This pamphlet makes a number of remarkable assertions, despite it’s reference to Occam’s Razor; often from cherry-picked scripture and a far-reaching use of “science” to support it. The pamphlets would only appeal to those without a grounding in science, or those who are already religious but struggle to reconcile the differences between reality and the wishful-thinking that comes with religion.

Unless of course that is the idea – no rational discourse was intended.

He is unfortunately doing a disservice to the people he hands these pamphlets to;  as what he’s talking about is not science – but pseudo-science. For instance, lets’ take Isostasy, which was one of the examples used in the pamphlet.

The Pamphlet mentions the Qur’an stating:

“Have We not made the earth as a bed and the mountains its pegs?”

The phamplet then uses a section from Earth, by Dr. Frank Press, where it states that mountains are like stakes, and are buried deep under the surface of Earth. Firstly, the analogy-comparison is erroneous, as mountains are not like pegs, nor can they be called “mountain roots”. They have misinterpreted the text, or at the very least tried to make the statement support the Qur’an.

You can read more about Isostasy at Wikipedia – it’s clear he didn’t even do that.

Essentially, Isostasy is a gravitational equilibrium; it is the working model that explains the buoyancy of tectonic plates on the mantle.

Since the initial tweet, Rebecca Watson at SkepChick filled us in more on what had happened; and it amused me because this description of Isostasy was an answer Hamza Andreas Tzorzis could have given in the video where he, and another confront PZ Myers outside the Global Atheist Convention in Dublin. Instead, he admitted he had no idea what he was talking about.

There are two videos. Of the same thing, but in the spirit of transparency, I am showing it from as many angles as possible. The below video was what was captured by YouTuber AronRa, who also chimes in later in the discussion.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4trHH6AuZ0

During the video the two try to take PZ Myers to task about the Qur’an and embryology, and yes – he and his colleague demonstrate their lack of knowledge of cell biology too. It’s clear that they are amateur religious apologists who have sought out nothing else but to cherry-pick literature in an effort to twist science around to fit in to what the Qur’an states -rejecting, or possibly even not even looking for conflicting information.

The fallacies are abound, so try to have patience.

AND

The below video is the complete interview as produced by iERA
and is available at Hamza Andreas Tzorzis‘s website.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3T5Pm7qLH50

Reproductive Health in the Philippines

The Philippines has had the RH (Reproductive Health) Bill in the news for quite some time now. While the majority who read this will NOT be in the Philippines, you may at least have an understanding of the issues after reading this – But, for those who are in the Philippines, and for those that are against it – I implore you to at least read the document for yourself; take some time to think about it; read it again – and reconsider your stance.

RHBill.org put together their top 10 reasons for passing the bill (the full text here):

  1. Protect the health & lives of mothers
  2. Save babies
  3. Respond to the majority who want smaller families
  4. Promote equity for poor families
  5. Prevent induced abortions
  6. Support and deploy more public midwives, nurses and doctors
  7. Guarantee funding for & equal access to health facilities
  8. Give accurate & positive sexuality education to young people
  9. Reduce cancer deaths
  10. Save money that can be used for even more social spending

RH BillYou can read it (15th Congress – House Bill 4244 (full text, final consolidated RH bill, HB 4244) here, broken down in easy to manage sections.

While there is general agreement about its provisions on maternal and child health, there is great debate on its key proposal that the Filipino taxpayer and the private sector will fund and undertake widespread distribution of family planning devices such as birth control pills (BCPs) and IUDs, as the Philippines government continues to disseminate information on their use through all health care centers. (wikipedia)

The stated purpose of the RH Bill, according to the Explanatory Note, is that population of the Philippines makes it “the 12th most populous nation in the world today”, that the Filipino women’s fertility rate is “at the upper bracket of 206 countries.” It states that studies and surveys “show that the Filipinos are responsive to having smaller-sized families through free choice of family planning methods.” It also refers to studies which “show that rapid population growth exacerbates poverty while poverty spawns rapid population growth.” And so it aims for improved quality of life through a “consistent and coherent national population policy.” (wikipedia)

With reason, and rationality, the Philippines can advance towards being a prosperous nation; one that is sincere in its approach to the health and well-being of its citizens. But, it takes informed citizens to make good choices about what they support; hopefully this helps.

More can be found from FilipinoFreethinkers.org under the RH Bill Tag, which includes:

Lying for a Cause” – covering some of the vehement propaganda used to scare Filipinos in to voting against the RH Bill;

Fudging Numbers” – A look at the false representation of numbers by Anti-RH Groups ;

Accusation of black propaganda boomerangs on CBCP” – A look at an announcement that was posted on Facebook, asking pro-RH Catholics to avoid receiving Communion until they have confessed their sin of being pro-RH Catholics.

Aljazeera features RH debates in the Philippines — again” – A brief look at Media Coverage of the RH Bill, and it’s 16 year delay; and

Women’s Day: 11 more women will die today” – A look at how Eleven women die each day from maternal complications; when most do not even want to get pregnant, and from those who do, certainly have no wish to die while giving life.