Archive for belief

Omega Point Theory – Resurrection! (Pun intended)

Posted in Philosophy, Physics, pseudoscience, skepticism, Spirituality with tags , , , , on September 10, 2010 by cpolsonb

It sure has been along time! Around 2 months since my last post and I do feel bad about it…

But what now has finally brought me out of my intellectual stupor? Why it’s my old buddy Omega Point Theory of course! For those who are interested or need a little refresher here are the two previous posts I’ve written on Omega Point Theory:

Omega Point(less?) Theory

Omega Point Theory – Redux!

After the long silence from Mr James Redford, presumably because he had not seen my blog entries, Redford has written a characteristically lengthy reply. Please sit back and relax while I examine this reply openly and honestly and see what it has to offer.

Without further ado, here is James Redford’s response.

Hi, Christian Polson-Brown.
Your write in reference to the abstract of my article “Jesus Is an Anarchist” (Social Science Research Network [SSRN], revised and
expanded edition, October 17, 2009 [originally published December 19, 2001] http://ssrn.com/abstract=1337761 ): “Mr Redford describes the implications his research have on the world as ‘profound’, a small slice of hyperbole if I’ve ever seen it!” It’s hardly hyperbole if Jesus Christ exists and he is God’s Messiah. Your response is the logical fallacy of circular reasoning, as you’re assuming as true that which has not been demonstrated to be true: that Jesus Christ doesn’t exists and he is not God’s Messiah.

For the historical reliability of Jesus Christ’s existence and his bodily resurrection, and the untenability of theories which deny his
resurrection, see Prof. William Lane Craig, “Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”,
Truth, Vol. 1 (1985), pp. 89-95. http://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth22.html For more on the historicity of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, see William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 3rd ed., 2008), Chap. 8: “The Resurrection of Jesus”, pp. 333-404, particularly pp. 360 ff.

It is empirically impossible to prove the non-existence of something, and science does not claim to. This point is articulated elegantly by Carl Sagan with his “dragon in my garage” story, printed in Demon Haunted World and available to read here. Burden of proof in this situation lies squarely on those making the claim of existence. For the life of Jesus of Nazareth to be accepted by the scientific community his existence needs to be proven, rather than his existence not disproved. Every argument that flows from the existence of Jesus is therefore based upon a false premise. The reference you cite regarding historical evidence for Jesus comes from a highly suspect journal. The journal “truth” existed for only three volumes and is written from an openly admitted “distinctively Christian perspective”.

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Karen’s Spiritual Journey

Posted in Spirituality with tags , , on May 20, 2010 by cpolsonb

Just a quick post to distract me from writing lab reports.

This is a clip I came across on Twitter from a BBC series called “Outnumbered”. It’s just awesomely cute and sweet and has a pretty funny message about religion. I dare you to watch it and tell me the little girl isn’t face-explodingly cute.

Dare ya.

Broadening Skeptical Outreach Through Manga

Posted in skepticism with tags , , , , on May 10, 2010 by cpolsonb

No I don’t mean the psychic kind of medium, I’m talking about discovering a new means through which critical thinking can be taught. The notion of using Japanese manga comics to communicate a message about science or critical thinking would likely never have occurred to me, but thankfully it did to someone! That someone Canadian resident Sara Mayhew, graphic designer and mangaka (manga artist), author of Secrets of Sorcerers and Love Pet. Her current project is called Legend of the Ztarr and is available online here.

I first heard about Sara and her work on the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Forum where she posted an announcement about her upcoming talk at the TED conference. If you haven’t heard of it before TED is an annual convention on Technology, Entertainment and Design where speakers are invited to talk about their specialty in such fields. Other noted skeptics who are TED fellows include James Randi, Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins so Sara is clearly in good company. The TED conference is just fantastic and I highly recommend you check out there catalog of lectures available in full online for free on their website.

Soon after I heard about Sara and her plans to take manga and critical thinking to TED I quickly had a couple of other encounters with her work. Sara was interviewed on episode #127 of the massively popular Skepticality podcast and was able to spread the word even further about her work and her plans. Sara also recorded a 2 minute video describing herself and her beliefs as part of a Nokia’s responsiveness program (embedded below). She also runs a very cool blog called “There Are Four Lights” the title of which is an awesomely nerdy Star Trek reference. It’s clear from her blog that her popularity has exploded and there are a number of posts detailing exciting events she’s participating in and work she’s done.

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Chronicle of Belief: Part 3 – Nature’s Value

Posted in biology, personal views, Philosophy with tags , , , , , on April 4, 2010 by cpolsonb

This third installment of Chronicle of Belief is about a subject very personal to me as a budding Biologist; nature. It is very easy to say that the natural world is a thing worth protecting and few fellow skeptics or rationalists would disagree, but why? What is so important about nature and is there an objective rational justification for why nature has value? To begin with let’s look at what my particular field, Conservation Biology is really all about.

For many people I imagine conservation conjures images of protesters and hippies, marching in the streets or standing in front of bull dozers. That sort of naïve environmentalism is however often irrational, counter-productive and/or used as a means to push some other ideological agenda. Conservation Biology is a scientific discipline that looks at how biological communities react to change, how different species and the environment interact with one another and how we as humans can ensure the continued existence of these systems. At it’s core Conservation Biology has a number of guiding principles:

Principles of Conservation Biology

1. Evolution is the basic axiom that unites all biology. Conservation biologists do not aim to conserve the status quo, nor stop the evolutionary process but to ensure that populations can adapt naturally to environmental change.

2. The ecological world is dynamic and non-equilibrial. Conservation based on a static view of nature is fundamentally flawed and a mis-representation of the natural world. A dynamic view allows for a deeper understanding.

3. The presence of humans must be included in conservation planning. Conservation biologists aims to integrate humans into the equation and study their impact.

These principles are text-book simplifications of a complex scientific field and highlight the dynamic, integrated approach that conservation biologists must take when approaching questions. It is also valuable to note that conservation biology is a ‘crisis discipline’, having been born from the outrage at anthropogenic mass extinctions and environmental destruction of the last few centuries. In this way it is also a science of eternal vigilance, there can never be a complete theory conservation biology as it is reactionary and time dependent. It is also not an exact science, biological systems are far too complex to ever predict with the certainty of say for example, a chemical reaction.

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Richard Dawkins on ABC’s Q&A

Posted in News, Philosophy, Spirituality with tags , , , , on March 12, 2010 by cpolsonb

This past week Richard Dawkins appeared on the ABC program Q&A to answer some predictably heady questions. For those of you who don’t know Q&A is a weekly panel program where questions are posed to the panelists from the live studio audience or via the internet. The members of the panel change each week with some occasional repeats. Topics discussed vary greatly between weeks but if it’s a burning social, political or philosophical issue you can bet it’ll be featured on Q&A. It was really great of Richard Dawkins to accept his invitation to appear on Q&A, he must be aware that his reputation will precede him no matter where he goes and that he’ll often be fighting an uphill battle. Nevertheless he strides brazenly straight into the enemies line of fire and comes back safely having taken no prisoners.

For those of you in Australia you can watch the episode in full from the ABC website by following this link: ABC iViewNow unavailable

Everyone worldwide can still watch the episode in this slightly poorer quality version found here: Vidoemo

The other panelists alongside Richard Dawkins were the following:

Patrick McGorry – Australian of the Year
Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio
Tony Burke – Minister for Agriculture
Julie Bishop – Deputy Opposition Leader
Steve Fielding – Family First Senator

If you’re curious about the questions that were asked, here is a complete transcript of the questions. You’ll have to watch the show to hear the answers though…

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Chronicle of Belief: Part 2 – Secular Humanism

Posted in personal views, Philosophy with tags , , , , on March 6, 2010 by cpolsonb

It’s time for the second installment of my “Chronicle of Belief” where I attempt to put into words my own world-view and the opinions and positions that help define me. This entry is about my identification with the label Secular Humanist, a particular world-view with which I sympathize and identify strongly. Before I begin explaining secular humanism I should start by clarifying my position on other terms commonly used by those who reject the supernatural and/or demand falsifiable evidence for claims about reality. Of these people some of the most common terms I hear used are skeptics, rationalists, critical thinkers, agnostics, atheists and humanists. I must make clear that this blog entry is not about arguing for or against the existence of divine beings. I am planning on dividing my evaluation of particular arguments for divinity into a series of future blog posts. This is simply about which branch of non-believers I identify with and why. I am also not discussing which particular belief systems I believe are objectively “better” than any other. While I do believe strongly that beliefs in the supernatural range along a spectrum with demonstrably harmful on one side (Jonestown) and perfectly harmless on the other (loose deists) this post is not a discussion on such matters. I shall enter now into a case by case discussion on particular labels associated with a rejection of the supernatural:

Atheism vs Agnosticism
This issue is perhaps one of the strongest and most passionately debated topics dividing non-believers today. At the core of the issue is a true lack of definition for each of the terms. As well as this there are a myriad of sub-divisions and cross-overs between the camps. I couldn’t dream of covering the issue in any real depth, there are hundreds of pages of blog entries and forum threads which have attempted to do that already. Instead I’ll hit on a couple of main points as I see them.

One interpretation of atheism is that it requires an assertion that no gods exists. In this particular strand a truth claim is made that positively argues that there are no gods or divine beings. While this view is an honest interpretation of atheism it is also commonly set up as a straw man by believers in order to characterize the atheistic world-view as dogmatic and unscientific. I reject this view of atheism as there is no scientifically verifiable way to prove a negative. There is an equal amount of proof that the god of Abraham doesn’t exist as there is that a Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t exist. All that can be done scientifically is to prove that any interaction with reality claimed to be divine (like prayer or creationism) actually occurred through natural means. So far this effort has been successful and I’m not aware of any testable divine claim that has turned out to be truly supernatural.

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Chronicle of Belief: Part 1 – Labeling

Posted in personal views, Philosophy, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 23, 2010 by cpolsonb

I thought I’d take some time to draw out a sketch of my own beliefs or worldview. There is far too much to condense into a single entry so I shall instead space it out over a number of broader topics. Before I begin I wish to stress that all of these posts will be an attempt to put into words my current belief and are subject to change via rational arguments. This is an important difference between people similar to myself (whatever label they wish to use) and those who follow dogma blindly (which is only a subset of people with supernatural/divine belief systems), in so far as I am perfectly willing to modify and refine my personal beliefs as I learn new information and mature as an individual.

One issue over which my opinion has been rather fluid as of late is that of labels. Often times I avoid the use of labels, arguing that they provide others with opportunity to make unfounded assumptions and put into practice pre-conceived notions. As we come to learn new labels we inevitably begin a process of shaping our opinion of that group of people. This opinion is formed through a number of means, chiefly our personal meetings with these people, stories or memes that circulate through society, media image and place in popular culture. As a quick demonstration of what I mean please conjure into your mind thoughts and feelings associated with the following ‘labels’: fundamentalist, emo, atheist, nerd and bogan. These images in your mind both consciously and subconsciously shape your interaction with any individual who self-identifies as or you identify as belonging to these groups. In sociology this is referred to as “Labeling Theory” and is described as follows:

“The theory is concerned with how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them, and is associated with the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping.”

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