Atheist Mafia

Thanks to this tweet from Alexander Nakrassov:

athmaf

I’ve finally worked out where those mysterious, quietly-spoken, yet vaguely threatening calls to the lab, saying things like:

The peppered moth. You’ll acknowledge why the darker variant is predominant in urban environments now compared to 200 years ago… if you know what’s good for you.

and:

Whales’ flippers contain the same basic bone arrangement as bats’ wings. If you want the homologous structures of your upper limbs to remain intact, it might be an idea for you to simply accept this as evidence of evolution. Capisce?

…have been coming from. Damn those atheist mafia terrorists.

The thing is though, every time you agree to their threats, you’re simply contributing to them naturally selecting that behaviour to terrorise some other poor scientist into accepting evolution as fact.

No wonder they seem to be using it more and more effectively.

Be kind to one another…

Wise words from wise wordsmith Jacques Rousseau on his synapses blog this morning, as he admonished some (or more) atheists for exploiting the death of SA author Andre Brink

to score political points for atheism

I can actually think of very few occasions when it’s acceptable to use the death of anyone to score political points for anything. Much like those “No Fly-Tipping” signs you see at the side of the road, this is one of those things that I don’t even think should need saying.

Evidently, I’m incorrect. (Yes, it happens.) (As does the fly-tipping).

It was the choice of words used when expressing condolence that apparently upset some atheists. “RIP” obviously doesn’t fit with their (or my) view of what actually happens when someone dies. But as Jacques points out, it’s also:

a shorthand for extending commiserations, for demonstrating shared membership of a community of caring, and for marking the passing of someone who was considered valuable to that community.

It’s not that the semantics aren’t important here. They are.
It’s more that being judgmental about people using words and phrases which are – in your view – technically incorrect, and more especially, being judgmental about them at a time when emotions are already running high, is not going to change anyone’s mind – certainly not the way you would like it changed anyway.

Yes, I’d prefer for us to use alternatives. But for any alternatives to gain traction takes time. And motivating for them, and gaining consensus for their usage, won’t be easy if you approach that task by being an ass.

Yep. There’s a time and a place for this. Neither of which were ‘the immediate period after Brink’s death’ and ‘on the internet’. Get a grip.

Personally, I’m less inclined to chase people down because of the words and phrases that they use in this context. Live and let live, and yes, educate (but do try to choose your moment more sensibly).
In fact, I even used a quote from Ephesians 4:32 for the title of this post. Just because something comes from what you consider to be a work of fiction doesn’t mean that it has to necessarily be a bad idea.
You only have to look at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate River for evidence of that.

ASA ruling against Red Bull – those complaints in full

I really don’t want to get into this, but I absolutely had to share the complaints against the Red Bull “Jesus walks on water ad” (you can watch it here), as submitted to the SA ASA.

It’s comedy gold!

COMPLAINTS
The complainant submitted, in essence, that:

  • The commercial is offensive as it makes a mockery of Jesus Christ by portraying Him in a blasphemous manner. Peripheral arguments to the allegation of offence relate to the fact that the commercial implies that the miracle of Jesus walking on water was all a sham.
  • Christians believe that Jesus Christ is alive and sitting at the right hand of God and as such His express permission should have been obtained before being featured in the commercial (in accordance with certain provisions of the Code).
  • The advertiser should apologise publicly and should be fined as well to indicate the level of offence caused.
  • Creates a bad example for children.
  • Its misleading as it creates an impression that the product existed during the time that Jesus Christ lived.

Yes, the first point initially suggesting that Jesus’ walking on water was not a sham, the second point then actually argues that Red Bull should have got Jesus’ “express permission” before featuring him (“Him” – whatever) in an advertisement.

How would one go about doing that? Presumably via your local church? Or through “Healing” Pastor Chris? Surely a verbal agreement would not be enough – some form of documentation would have to be signed by both parties. How many Christians have got Jesus’ autograph? None? Why on earth not?

And then point five? “…it creates an impression that the product existed during the time that Jesus Christ lived”?

Well, in point two, you just told us he (“He”) is still alive, so what’s with using the past participle? And if he (“He”) is still alive and I can buy a Red Bull (and I can), then the product does exist during the time that Jesus Christ lived… lives… lived… oh… whatever.

Contradiction much?

I do agree with point four though. Stepping out of fishing boats into the Sea of Galilee and expecting to be able to walk on water does set a very bad example for children by suggesting that people can walk on water.

They can’t, that’s all a sham.

Satan’s Arithmetic

From Frederick Schoeman of Cape Town on Friday’s Cape Times letters page:

Satan’s Arithmetic

I believe that a couple of centuries ago, two mathematicians were demonstrating their numerical skills to the French monarchy when one of them stunned his opponent and the audience by reciting an algebraic formula and claiming it to be proof that “God lives”.
Could I borrow a leaf out of that man’s book and claim that, since the graph of world population growth over the past 1700 years looks like a serpent trying to slither up a wall, Satan is alive and thriving on human lust?

I’ve been doing some extensive research into Fred’s story, but the best that I could come up with was the the story of Leonhard Euler, who was a mathematician, but was Swiss, not French, and his presentation of an algebraic formula, claiming to be the proof that God lives. This presentation was made to another individual, Denis Diderot who was French, but was better known for his philosophical musing, rather than his mathematical prowess. In addition, this presentation was made in St Petersburg in 1774, in front of the Russian Empress Catherine II, rather than any French monarch.
Wikipedia tells us:

There is a famous anecdote inspired by Euler’s arguments with secular philosophers over religion, which is set during Euler’s second stint at the St. Petersburg academy.
The French philosopher Denis Diderot was visiting Russia on Catherine the Great’s invitation. However, the Empress was alarmed that the philosopher’s arguments for atheism were influencing members of her court, and so Euler was asked to confront the Frenchman.
Diderot was later informed that a learned mathematician had produced a proof of the existence of God: he agreed to view the proof as it was presented in court. Euler appeared, advanced toward Diderot, and in a tone of perfect conviction announced, “Monsieur! (a+b)^n/n = x, donc Dieu existe, répondez!”.

This roughly translates as:

Listen mate, a plus b to the power n, over n, equals x. That means God exists.
What do you say to that then, huh? HUH?!?

Allegedly, Denis failed to provide an immediate answer. Or indeed any answer:

Diderot, to whom (says the story) all mathematics was gibberish, stood dumbstruck as peals of laughter erupted from the court. Embarrassed, he asked to leave Russia, a request that was graciously granted by the Empress.

This sudden stage fright could have been due to Euler’s sheer mathematical brilliance.
Or, conversely, it may have been caused by Diderot’s incredulity that some Swiss bloke had successfully baffled him with bullshit by spouting some maths at him and pretending that it meant something that it actually didn’t.
Why not try something similar at your local supermarket this weekend? At the Deli counter, ask for some ham. When the lady asks how much you’d like, exclaim loudly (remembering to use a tone of perfect conviction):
“Madam! a x squared, multiplied by b x, plus c, equals zero, therefore I’m off to the jams and spreads aisle. What say you to that?”.
See if she can find an immediate answer.

When she can’t, she must ask her boss’s permission to leave the country and go back to France.

Either way, there’s a whole lot more detail, including eye witness accounts, right here.

Of course, the formula didn’t prove that God exists at all, although it later proved invaluable in predicting how long one would have to wait for the next bus to the St Petersburg city centre.
Nice work, Leonhard.

So, the first of Fred’s paragraphs proven wholly misguided, yet almost slightly true, we move on to his second.
The bit about the snake.

But before that, at this point that I’d like us all to stop and consider some stuff for just a second. Firstly, put yourself in Fred’s shoes. At some moment in time, Fred actually felt that there was a connection between his 18th century algebraic French monarchy court presentation story and a graph of world population growth over the last 1700 years. Personally, I can’t see it. It’s like me taking an excerpt from a book on the dinosaurs and somehow linking it to the recent downturn in Malaysian rubber production.
But I digress. The important point here is that Fred saw this relationship.
Secondly (and still in Fred’s shoes), Fred sat down and wrote to the Cape Times about it. That is, not only did he feel that the connection was a valid one, he felt it was worth sharing – not just with his friends (although I have no idea if he put it on his Facebook wall) – but with the general population of Cape Town and surrounds.  While he was typing (or writing – who knows?) away, he still thought it was a good idea to sent it through to the letters page. When he addressed the envelope or entered the email address ([email protected]), he remained under the impression that the not only did his observation make complete sense, but that it was so important that 268,000 readers should be informed of it.
And then, once his thoughts arrived at the Cape Times office, at a time when sharks, rugby, racial issues, politics and cellphone masts (What? – Ed.) are at the forefront of all of our minds, Fred’s letter was one of the seven best that was received by the local rag that day.

Yes. Really.

But onto the serpent thing. I had a good luck around on the internet and the best graph I could come up with to illustrate  Fred’s serpent against a wall thing was this one:

Obviously, you can ignore the bit before 311 AD, as Fred didn’t consider that when making his serpentine comparison.
Personally, I felt that it was a bit of a stretch, but then I’m no expert on what exactly a serpent trying to slither up a wall looks like. That’s why I searched for “a serpent trying to slither up a wall” on google images.

This was the best that I could find:

Which seems to suggest that human population exploded upwards, remained almost static while traveling back and then forward again in time, before increasing almost exponentially, peaking and then dropping off to the current number. That aside, we shouldn’t overlook that fact that

…it’s gripping onto that brickwork because Satan is thriving on human lust.

A few points, if I may be so bold:

Firstly, algebra cannot prove the existence of God. Theologians might have their own reasons for why this may be, but mine is probably more simple: that he doesn’t exist and that it’s awfully difficult to prove the existence of something that doesn’t exist – algebraically or otherwise.
Secondly, unless I’m missing some big chunk of causality here, an alleged incident in a “Parisian” court chamber 200+ years ago doesn’t have any bearing on the fact that “Satan is alive and thriving on human lust”.
Thirdly, I do still quite like the idea of an algebraic duel:

Sir, you have insulted me and I demand satisfaction. Meet me at 6 o’clock tomorrow morning and bring a blackboard.
No calculators.

Fourthly, what does Fred want us to do? Not breed? Adam and Eve bred. Mary and Joseph bred (sort of). Hey, Mr and Mrs Schoeman (Snr) bred. Are these also examples of human lust upon which Satan is thriving?
Fifthly, any line graph looks a bit like a snake on a wall.
Any block graph resembles the Manhattan Skyline.
Any pie chart has the appearance of… well… a pie. Deal with it.
Sixthly, get your historical facts right if you wish to make a good impression on those reading, but remember that…
Seventhly, just because you think something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to write it down and send it to the Cape Times.
Lastly, just because you think something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to write 1300 words on it on your blog.

Did the earth move for you in 2005?

The chatter in Gauteng is (possibly) all about last night’s Gauteng earthquake/tremor which, it turns out, wasn’t in Gauteng at all. It measured 2.8 on the Richter scale and twitter was instantly ablaze with the thought that the Daily Star’s prophecy might actually have come true, although of course a quick look at this page would tell you that Southern Africa is actually hit fairly regularly by small earthquakes.

There’s no way of actually predicting where or when an earthquake might strike. If there was – like there is with volcanoes – then evacuations could take place and the number of casualties would be drastically reduced. Obviously there are areas which are at higher risk than others, but you’ll find that SA is pretty safe in this regard.

Which makes Chris van der Walt’s prediction that:

an enormous earthquake is going to hit the Rand (Greater Johannesburg area) very soon…

somewhat bizarre. Even more so when you hear the details of this enormous earthquake:

The earth opened up like a massive chasm with buildings toppling over. It stretched from the east and south of Johannesburg and came together in the city centre. From there it continued to the West Rand.

Yikes. And who told Chris that all this was going to happen?
Well, that would be the Holy Spirit. Yep – a voice from upstairs.

But look, it’s not all bad news. Chris points out that you might get away in time (but terms and conditions apply):

Again I say what the Lord said: “An enormous earthquake is going to hit the Rand (greater Johannesburg area) soon and it is unavoidable. It is going to be disastrous. I will protect My children who listen and take them away in time.” 

Which to me seem to be a bit of a threat to sign up to christianity or die a horrible death in Johannesburg in late 2005.
Chris continues:

In me there is no doubt about the genuineness of this word of God and it will also be proved the day when the earthquake occurs.

Which, of course it never did: casting some doubt on the “genuineness” of the big man upstairs.

All in all, I feel hugely let down by this god thing again. Just like when he topped those 5 kids last February. Instead of saving people in Haiti, where a real earthquake really happened and killed about a quarter of a million people, he’s wasting everyone’s time by talking to Chris in Gauteng and making a mountain out of a minedump.

Chris says:

God does not say these things as a merciless, cruel God. On the contrary, He gives this word to warn people unto repentance, irrelevant of their culture or religion. 

I don’t see it that way. I see a god who is going to kill many thousands of people by a non-existent earthquake tearing open a massive chasm through the city, complete with toppling buildings. And the only people who are going to be saved are, conveniently, those in his religion.

Which all sounds pretty merciless and cruel to me.