Saturday, December 4, 2010

An Apology and an Update

It appears that I have fallen behind when it comes to maintaining this blog. This is not for lack of interest, mind you; I don’t like writing unless I am sure that what I am writing is worth reading (to someone at least) and have not been feeling that spark that I usually do. Fortunately, it appears to have returned, so I figured the first place to start is to review all the books I have read since my last review (which is a lot, so they will be short and to the point).

I have also created a ‘Top Ten Book' list and will update it when need be. This will save me from having to rank each new book I review in the review itself, thus allowing me to talk more about the book itself.

Also added is my 'Websites Worth Visiting' list; this is most comprised of blogs that I often read and find the topics discussed to be of a high intellectual standard. I shall add to it as I come across more sites worth visiting.

You may also notice that I have changed the format/design of my blog. Hope you don't mind the change.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review - ‘You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think’ by Ray Comfort

This book stands out from others that I have read in that it is one that I purchased expressly knowing it had a premise that I disagreed with. If anyone is familiar with Comfort, they might accuse me of intentionally picking someone who has a weak counter-position to my own. This may be true, but I first wish to acclimate myself with the ‘every man’s’ argument for Christianity. To me, this should be the one worth listening to, especially if Christianity is meant to be a belief system for everyone, not just high-end theologians with weird esoteric views of what God is and wants.

Unfortunately, Comfort is more ‘preaching to the converted’. Many of his arguments require that you accept certain premises which he fails to prove or give valid reasons of why we might consider them. Another important point is that many of his analogies are painfully flawed. Not in the sense that the analogy doesn’t hold true when viewed in high detail (as all analogies break down when viewed under a microscope), but they often don’t even hold true on the most basic level. One of his favourite is the ‘creation is proof a creator’ argument, in which he uses the example of a painting; if you see a painting, you know there must be a painter because paintings don’t just create themselves. He then attempts to link this up to humans/the Earth/the universe; because these things exist, they must have a creator i.e. God. The problem is two-fold; firstly, we have no evidence of a natural process that can create a painting, but we have some evidence of natural processes that can create humans (evolution) and planets (stellar formation). The second problem is that he is jumping to his preconceived conclusion. The best we could say is that the universe had a cause, not that it had a creator. Using the term cause doesn’t rule out creator; it is just more inclusive of natural possibilities which we have yet to discover. Comfort instantly jumps from ‘cause’ to ‘Christian God’ (arguably because he was already at that point).

So, would I recommend this book to others? In a roundabout way, yes I would. Not because it contains any points of intellectual value (though it is a good mental exercise to see if you can see how he is wrong), but simply because it is an insight into how fundamentalists view the world.


Another Your Say Letter... This time about gay marriage!

If anyone can grab a hold of the 3rd of December, 2010 copy of the Geelong Advertiser, they can read the letter to which mine is responding to (entitled 'Same-sex marriage against beliefs'). For those of you that can't, the general tone of the letter is a 'the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, I believe the Bible, therefore I win' type argument. This I couldn't let slide. Here is my response:

"In responding to Dennis Irvine’s letter regarding gay marriage (3/12), it is hard to believe that a person could be so disconnected from the facts.

Firstly, a literal reading of the Biblical account of creation (i.e. Adam and Eve) has been disproven by science. The evidence shows that humans evolved from, and still are, animals.

This does not disprove God, of course. It merely disproves that the Bible has an accurate portrayal of the origins of humanity.

The second point worth mentioning would be that it appears that Mr. Irvine is being selective in what he takes from the Bible.

In the same book that prohibits homosexual interactions, it also prohibits trimming the sides of one’s beard.

I doubt Mr. Irvine would write such an impassioned objection to the ‘immorality of beard trimming’.

The more relevant correction would be that there is no evidence that raising children in a same-sex environment is detrimental to their development.

It appears that the more important factor is whether children are raised in a loving environment, regardless of the gender of the parents.

Finally, it should be noted also that our society is a secular one. As such, our laws must have a reason that is not specific to religion. The justification must be relevant to all individuals, be they religious or non-religious.

Secularity is the only way in which a society that is comprised of religious and non-religious individuals can interact without the oppression of one group or the other.

Therefore, if you wish to argue that the law should not recognize gay marriage, a secular justification needs to be provided, not one based on personal religious beliefs."

As always, if I get a response, I will post more details.