Sunday, September 21, 2008

Run with it! Like scissors!

I suppose I should put this up here, rather than just leaving it over at PZ's place...

I'll edit out all the stuff related to other conversations.

The thought has been growing in my mind that we need a group of people who are held, by the atheist community as a whole, of being capable of defending the tenets we hold as universal, and moreover that these people should be organised in such a way that any one of them could say "I'm a member of _____*" and anyone who has participated in the culture wars for any length of time would know precisely what it means, and also (if they find themselves on the opposite side of the argument) s**t themselves in the sure and certain knowledge that they are about to get their rhetorical asses handed to them in paper bags.

*Name to be decided.
**I know some people don't like words like that. Where I come from they're a normal part of conversation.

Now everyone start arguing about it.

Posted by: DK | September 20, 2008 9:22 AM

Wazza: Sounds cool. The group would have to have some snappy acronym though, like S.H.I.E.L.D. or U.N.C.L.E.

Posted by: Tim | September 20, 2008 9:27 AM

Wazza, An intriguing idea, likely fuel their persecution complex, but I understand the desire. When someone gets in my face with their creation myth, I can be a bit hasty.

Posted by: Sven DiMilo | September 20, 2008 9:41 AM

Hmmm, a secular humanist/atheist SWAT team, huh? Emergency response squad sort of thing?
Secular Humanist/Atheist Response Integration Alliance?
nah, that acronym might be misinterpreted.

Posted by: wazza | September 20, 2008 9:52 AM

I was thinking more a distributed thing, so that no matter where a discussion takes place, one of us can be there.

OK, here's my thoughts on the matter (concocted in the shower I took between now and the first post)

1. No official dogma. I mean, everything has to be based on evidence and reason, but you can argue for any viewpoint so long as you only use those. Theistic evolutionists would be as welcome as anyone else.

2. Membership is based on an examination by a committee of existing members (except right at the start where the original members would have to be assessed in some other way). Basically you have to argue for your point in your preferred medium, whether it be scholarly journals, newspaper articles, blogs, fora or in-person debate, and have your arguments assessed by members of the organisation to ensure that your arguments were based on reason and evidence and that no logical fallacies were committed.

3. The actual organisation would be more about a level of argument - total ass-kicking with the option of taking names - rather than a particular dogma. This level of argument of course excludes ideas like YEC because they're not based on evidence and reason and are full of logical fallacies, but it would include a wide range of possible interpretations of the facts, so long as they all answer to the criteria already set out.

I think that's enough thinking to do at nearly 2am. Night all.

Posted by: tim Rowledge | September 20, 2008 11:55 AM

SHIELD - Science Has Interesting Explanations for Lots of Data ?
SMERSH - Science Makes Exciting Research Seriously Helpful ?

Posted by: Blake Stacey | September 20, 2008 12:22 PM

SMERSH - Science Makes Exciting Research Seriously Helpful ?

Tee hee! How about, um, "SPECTRE — Science Privileges Evidence and Careful Theorization for Real Effectiveness"?

Posted by: Ron Sullivan | September 20, 2008 2:10 PM

SWORD: Science Will Overcome Religious Delusion. Would make for some cool art too.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tower of Improvised Sign Language

I just thought of something, I'll have to quickly look some stuff up, let's see, New Revised Standard Version Bible...

"Noah Pleases God"... not what I'm looking for. In any way.

OK, here we are... Tower of Babel. Genesis, Chapter 11, verses 1 to 9.

"Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as they migrated from the east*, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth."** 5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built.+ 6 And the LORD said, "Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 "Come++, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech." 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the earth, and they left off the building of the city. 9 Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth, and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the earth."

Now. Forget the absurdity of an omnipotent being getting worried about people building with bricks and tar. This story is absurd, and anyone who's ever had to speak to someone who speaks a different language will know why: confusing languages doesn't do a thing. Maybe you can't describe the subtle beauty of a flower, but you can certainly point out where you want the next load of bricks dumped. You can direct people to shelter from the wind or whatever God's using to scatter them. He'd have had to scatter them an awful lot for them to not meet up again before they forgot the whole "one city building a tower together" phase of their history. I mean, no matter what your language is, that's the kind of thing you remember, and tell your grandkids about. And you don't go to war with people you used to live peacefully with for no reason... and they'd remember the tower, too.

This is an element of creationism I haven't seen targeted yet: they also expect intelligently designed languages, but linguistics tells us modern languages evolved from just a few root languages. Common descent works for words, too.

*Or migrated eastward... wait, the translation can say one thing, or its exact opposite? I'll have to do a post on that at some point...
**Because the unavoidable consequence of not building a brick-and-tar skyscraper is everyone running off in different directions.
+Obviously this isn't the omniscient god of the rest of the bible, and the giants mentioned earlier in Genesis were union labour.
++What's with all the coming? Onan isn't due to be born for millenia yet.