Monday, December 29, 2008

On Atheism and the Sprituality of Science

When I'm confronted by theists over why I'm an atheist, this is usually my response:

"When I look at the universe around me, with all of its wonders and spectacles, I fail to find any phenomenon that cannot be explained scientifically or that definitively require the invocation of a supernatural entity. Furthermore, even if some phenomenon were observed that required said invokation, I fail to find any reason for why said supernatural entity should take any one form over any other."

Rephrase the last sentence to fit the theists' belief, e.g. if they are Fundamentalist Christians, I would say that there's no reason for why said entity should be as described in the Bible.


Sometimes, however, I do question myself (I'm paranoid), and I wonder if God (as we've defined him over the millennia) really exists.

When that happens, I watch a few videos on YouTube. I have them now on my iPod, so I can watch them on the go. I recommend that everyone wtach these videos, as they are probably the most spiritual scientific videos you will ever watch.

Neil Tyson --

Neil Tyson, on Stupid Design --

Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" --

"Pale Blue Dot" Remake (watch it even if you watched the one above) --


EDIT: Here, lemme embed the playlist:

Knowing the Digits of Pi

I have a side hobby of memorizing digits of pi. I've memorized about 140 digits by now. However, one day, someone directed me to an article saying that only 39 digits of pi ere really necessary, because past that level of accuracy, one can calculate the circumference of the known universe to within the width of a hydrogen atom.

I generally agreed with this, but until today had no real way of testing it. Thankfully, StumbleUpon came to my aid today, and I found a website with a built-in high-accuracy calculator. IT can handle thousands of digits of precision! Yay!

I started to work. I started by calculating the diameter of the known universe (~93 billion light-years) in terms of the width of a hydrogen atom (~2.4 Angstroms, or 2.4*10^-11 meters). The result = 3665954758333333333333333333333333333.333...

Now the trick is to multiply that number by pi with different level of precision.

First up, pi extended to 4000 digits:
Now, pi extended to just 39 digits:

Success! However, I'm not done. Can I still remain within a hydrogen atom's width even with less precision? The answer is yes, you can cut pi down to just 36 decimal places before you tip the scales:



Awesome uber-calculator here:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Arab Christmas!

It had been a long day, what with the car window being broken and everything. In Hebrew, the word for the day before a holiday is "erev." My dad wished us a Merry Erev Christmas. I, unfortunately, misheard him.

Merry Arab Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy happy happy happy

It's snowing! Huzzah! Woo hoo!

Sure, it's been too warm for it to stick in any measurable amount,'s still snow! Yay!

I think my favorite part about snow in NYC is how the combination of a blanketing white surface and total cloud cover causes all of the street lights to reflect off the ground onto the clouds. It's awesome.

And I had hot cocoa this morning!

In other news, I'm going skiing next week, so that's also awesome! Smuggs has been getting lots of snow, so it'll be awesome.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thank You, Time Warner!

Usually I'm not one to support a company with a stranglehold on its customers, but I just found the most useful thing. Channel 1000 is well-known as the movies-on-demand channel, where Time Warner will stream your movies to your TV, and charge your TV bill for the movie. It's insanely simple.

However, I just found that channel 1008 is FREE movies-on-demand. Sure, there a re far less and more crappy movies, but I just found that TNT was providing "Groundhog Day"! I love that movie! It's wonderful when you watch a movie that you didn't pay a cent for.

The best part: TNT added commercials in the movie, but someone goofed at Time Warner and made it possible to fast forward through the commercials. Woo hoo!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day Saints and YOU!

Setting: Near a subway, I'm walking down the street.
Plot: A member of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day Saints is trying to convert the masses selling holiday cards.

Her: Hello! Would you like to learn a little bit about Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior?
Me: No thanks, I'm an atheist.
Her: *extremely puzzled, stutters*
Her: Well, um, well, I 've always been curious: why si it that you're an atheist.
Me: I'm an atheist because I look at the universe around me and I do not see the need to invoke the existence of a supernatural deity in order to explain the universe's existence or its phenomena. Furthermore, even if a deity were requried, I see no reason why it should be one deity over any other.
Her: Well, that's, uh, interesting. If you ever want to learn more about Jesus--
Me: I'll stop by. Got it. Thank you.
Her: Er, no problem.

I love New York.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Close Encounters of the Theist Kind

The following is my response to a theist's answers to a list of questions posed to theists.
Why does the universe need a reason to have been made?

This question presupposes that one of my arguments for the existence of God is that the universe needed a reason to be made. The fact that a reason exists (God’s will) does not in any way indicate that a reason was needed. Saying that presence indicates necessity is ludicrous.

Presence indicating necessity is indeed ridiculous. However, you have misunderstood the question. Science gives us a few ideas on how the universe formed. If you believe that God made the universe, then you are rejecting those ideas. How do you propose God made the universe? Is the previous question really scientific?
What sanctioned your god making the universe?
Who says that God needs to be sanctioned? By whose authority do you propose He was bound? The idea that a sanction was required presupposes the existence of a higher authority. One of the fundamental properties of the very IDEA of God, is that there is none.

Again, you misunderstand the question. The question is: "Why did your particular god (over any other hypothetical entities) make the universe, and why did he make the universe in the first place?"
Can you prove that your god exists?
Nope. Can you prove He doesn’t? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Science.

Can you prove that there isn't an invisible unicorn in your bathroom which stays perfectly silent and moves out of the way when you walk in?

And actually, I can prove that the Semitic god (Yahweh/Allah) does not exist under the criteria supplied by theists. There are many proofs that omnipotentence, omniscience, free will, omnibenevolence, omnipresence, etc. are impossible. If you say that they are possible outside of out logic, then you have left the field of evidence and have moved into pure faith, where you can't trust anything.
Why do we use the original 10 commandments rather than the replacements that God gave to Moses after Moses broke the tables containing them?
Because it makes no functional difference? The only differences are ones of slight rephrasing. The order and meanings remain the same, so what difference does it make? Do you really care that much that we use the version that says “You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal.” Instead of the one that says “You shall not kill. Neither shall you commit adultery. Neither shall you steal?”

If God is all-loving, why does he order people to death for crimes they DID NOT EVEN COMMIT?
That seems unfair to us, for sure, but again you are taking yourself outside the bounds of the argument. Your question assumes (in a very humanistic, atheistic way) that human moral ideals bind God. Who are you to say who God can and can’t kill? This is putting God beneath you, which is fundamentally against the spirit of Theism. God is transcendent of the rules of this universe. In fact, one could even argue that murder is only wrong because it is a sort of playing God. God can kill whoever he wants, but you can’t because you aren’t God.

So you are saying that our mortal definition of "moral" doesn't apply, because God might use a different definition.

Congrats: you have just killed religion. After all, if God can redefine words, what's to stop him from redefining everything in the fucking Bible? Maybe God is Satan, and Hell is Heaven and Heaven is Hell. All good Christians go to Hell. Interesting. Maybe by "no man shall sleep with another man" God really means "no man shall get to decide who can sleep with whom, because it's none of their fucking business in the first place."

Thank you.

Does God have the right to rule the universe?
The question of God’s right to be in charge is a very atheistic one.

Well, duh, we're atheists. And "atheist" is the adjective as well, so no need to "atheistic."
It is also not logically defensible. Firstly, it is based on the purely atheistic assumption that the universe would continue to function without God.

Why shouldn't it? The laws of nature hold up perfectly fine, and last I checked, God isn't in Einstein, Newton, or Maxwell's equations.
The fact that this is not true to a theistic cosmology means that this argument is not valid.

In other words: My beliefs say that your question is wrong, therefore your question is wrong. In other words: I say you're wrong, so therefore you're wrong.
Until you prove the proposition that the universe would function without God, and he is simply choosing to rule, your question has no meaning.

*observes that the universe keeps working*
*notes that no one's heard from your God in a few millennia*
Secondly, the spirit of the question is a bit silly as well. Let me give an example. The Large Hadron Collider. There are very few people who can operate it, and they, logically, are the ones who operate it. Theoretically, I’m sure they could just start it up, and leave forever and let be what will be.

Completely wrong. The Large Hadron Collider cannot and should not be compared to the universe. The LHC requires constant fine-tuning and control. It is a simulator at best, an machine for conducting experiments. The universe is simply a bunch of matter and energy following a bunch of rules.
They don’t do this because they want to have someone to make sure that things don’t get totally out of hands and explode and destroy all that work (not to mention the lives at stake). Nobody questions their right to be the ones operating the LHC, because that would be silly.

Actually, you're completely wrong. Many scientific boards weigh in on the functioning of the LHC, not to mention the European Union and multiple anti-LHC groups. And again, you can leave the universe alone and it'll work. The LHC will stop working immediately.
Can you show that God is not a malevolent, omnipotent and all-deceiving being?
Nope. Can you show that anyone is not a malevolent, omnipotent, and all-deceiving being? You just can’t operate under that assumption.

That's not an assumption, it's a question. How do you know that your God hasn't just lied to you all of the way through? He's told you a bunch of stuff that is completely untestable. That's part of religion: you have to take the Bible on faith. God could be completely bullshitting you, and you wouldn't know it. Heck, maybe God is gay, and he's really pissed off that you misread that part of the Bible. Prop 8 makes God cry rainbows. Ha ha.

On the other hand, science makes testable predictions. We know that Einstein isn't bullshitting us, because his work made many testable predictions, all of which were found to be true. It validated his work.
How is God going to punish me if I don't believe he exists?
If you believe Danté, you go to Limbo, which is essentially the Garden of Eden. It’s actually a pretty sweet deal; you get to hang out forever in like a really pleasant place and chat it up with Socrates and Plato. Not too shabby! You just don’t get to experience perfect alignment with God`s will, but if you don’t believe he exists then that isn’t much of a punishment.

And how do you know Danté isn't bullshitting us?
How can you prove that your scriptures (Bible, Koran, Torah, whatever) really represents the will of God, and not the humans, who wrote it?
How can you prove that your Scientific Laws really represent the way the universe
works and not the ideas of the humans who wrote it? Don’t hold Religion to more rigorous standards than you hold Science.
That is stupid. I hold science to much, much higher standards than I do for religion, and science still passes much more often than religion does.

We know that the scientific laws represent the way the universe works because the universe follows those laws. We've shown this experimentally millions of times. Were we to find that there was a discrepancy, we would observe the available data and develop several testable ideas to replace the failed idea.

Can God create a rock so big that he cannot lift it?
A big rock is only hard to move because it and you are affected by the laws governing the universe. God is not. Logically, God would never find a rock, no matter how big he made it, hard to move at all.

So you're saying that there's something that God cannot create.

That violates the definition of omnipotent. Logic is irrelevant: the definition of omnipotent trumps any natural logic.

And again, if you want to redefine omnipotent to be susceptible to logic, then I can redefine the Bible to promote atheism.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Good job, Canadia.

It's incredible. Your prime minister has actually just usurped your government. Congrats. Stephen Harper has just shut down the Parliament in Canadia until January 26. I reckon that this is the first time an executive branch has shut down a legislative branch since King Louis XIV in France closed down the Estates-General in 1618. The Estates-General remained closed until 1789.

See you in 2179, Canadian Parliament.