Jul 3, 2011

Aristotle's Muse has accepted the Atheist's Challenge.

1.  Where do you get your morality from, and please explain your morality.
Morality is, like all biological traits, a product of evolution. Being amiable, agreeable, kind, and generous is conducive to a healthy and more viable population of social animals, which we are. My moral perspective is simply to be a person who, if I were on the outside looking in, I would categorize as a good person worthy of respect and appreciation.  Somebody I would like. 
To assume that morality comes only from the belief in god is to imply that the only thing keeping the religious from continuously raping their mothers and murdering children in the streets is the fear of god being upset with them. If there is such a person, I do not want to know them.

2.  Why do you accept evolution? Explain how you came to your conclusions.
I accept evolution for the same reason that I accept the theory of gravity and the germ theory of disease. Because just like those things, it is absolutely real, regardless of they're being "just" a theory. The evidence for evolution is enormous. Absolutely enormous. All of biology, biochemistry, and natural history depend on and are entirely congruent with the theory of evolution at every turn and with every new discovery.

3.  What is the meaning and purpose of your life?
There is no "meaning" to life.  Life and evolution are simply the words we've given to naturally occuring chemical processes following the laws of physics.  To assume that there is some meaning or purpose is to assume that there is something with human like rationality and intention that is responsible for our existence. Nature is a machine. It is the physical expression of mathematical laws. It has no intention, emotion, or desire - and demonstratably so.  If I were to say that there is any "meaning" to life, it would be that we as a species not squander the unique opportunity we have to exist by squabbling over such trivial things as which ancient middle eastern bronze age mythology is true - often times to the extent that we mass murder each other. Our goal should be an enlightened society focused on progress toward a sustainable future with minimized suffering.

4.  What is the greatest thing you have ever done for others? 
That would be for someone else to answer.

5.  Would you kill for atheism? 
No. Asking if I would kill for atheism is akin to asking me if I would kill for my disbelief in unicorns (also exist according to the bible).

6.  Why are you an atheist and consider your position valid?
I am an atheist for the same reason the faithful don't believe in all other possible gods; because it would be ridiculous to believe otherwise. Do you believe in Leprechauns? Probably not, because Leprechauns are imaginary. Yes, there are lots of books, movies and fairy tales dealing with Leprechauns. People talk about Leprechauns all the time. Leprechauns even have a popular brand of breakfast cereal. But that does not mean that Leprechauns exist.

We know that Leprechauns are imaginary. Why? Because there is no evidence for their existence and plenty of evidence to the contrary.  Despite all the publicity Leprechauns get, normal people dismiss storybook creatures like Leprechauns as myths, and rightly so.

If you do not believe in Leprechauns, what are you? Are you an aleprechaunist? Of course not. You are normal. People who do not believe in Leprechauns are normal. This is much the same as why I do not believe in any gods. It is because there is a massive, mountanous pile of evidence, all of it congruent and indicitave of a naturalistic universe, and not even a shred of good evidence in support of a god or gods. I am an atheist because atheism, believe it or not, is the normal default state and only one congruent with the facts.

7.  If you died and discovered a god existed, what would you say to he/she/it?
I assume this question implies that there is only one god, likely the christian god, and is asking how I would justify my not worshiping it. I wouldn't have to say anything. An omnipotent, omnipresent god would already now what I would say. If such a god existed, and it were truly a benign god (contrary to the god portrayed in the old and new testament), there would be no excusable reason to punish me for not believing in a god that created a universe perfectly constructed to demonstrate that there are no gods. It would be akin to god pointing at your shirt and asking "what is that?", then raising his hand and popping you in the nose with his finger when you look. Except that your shirt is an entire universe of evidence against the existence of a god, and popping you in the nose is excruciating torment in the bottomless pit of everlasting hellfire.

8.  What religion is more dangerous in your eyes today and in the past?
Far and away the most dangerous religion now is Islam. In the past it would have been Christianity. This is demonstrable simply by exemplifying death toll and the number and prominence of oppressive theocratic totalitarian regimes attributed to them.

9.  Name three peaceful religions you have no issue with? 
I take issue with all religions. Not simply because religions can be violent or bigoted, but because they are conducive to non thinking and being satisfied with not understanding the universe as it truly is. Religion is a hindrance to human progress, and may in fact be our ultimate undoing.

10.  What would it take for you to believe in a god? 
Just a little good hard evidence. As it stands, all there is is a mountain of evidence that all gods are the constructs of ancient, primitive peoples.

11.  Would the world be a better place without religion? 

12.  How do you feel about government and politics? 
When Christianity and Politics were hand in hand across the western world, it was called the dark ages. Want a good example of what a modern theocracy is? Look at Iran.

13.  If time travel were possible and you could go back in time and kill Hitler/Stalin as babies so they would never kill the millions in the future, would you do it? 
I'll just ignore the inherent scientific and logical problems with this question and answer. No, I would not. It does not take much at all to change the entirety of causation. That's chaos theory. For instance, if Hitler had been accepted to The Vienna Academy of Art, it is almost certain that the holocaust would never have taken place. I think the only thing I would have to do is pick up the little guys as babies and displace them. Maybe drop them off on a doorstep on the other side of their respective countries. Even if they found their way back to their real families the very next day, it would certainly be enough to change the course of events drastically enough to negate any chance of either one following the same course.

14.  Why is stem cell research so important? 
It is important for the same reason that electing to become an organ donor is important. It has the potential to save countless lives and end immense suffering. Nobody is farming fetuses simply for the stem cells. That would obviously be objectionable. However, if the tissues can either be 1. given to someone suffering so that they can live or walk again, or 2. send to a landfill to rot, I'd go with option number one. I really can't see how one could justify any other option as moral.

15.  Is abortion evil?
I'll first start off by stating that I do not like using the word "evil". That being said, it is not inherently immoral in it's entirety. I do believe that every step should be taken to prevent pregnancy in the first place, and that the use of abortion as a consistent form of birth control is immensely immoral. This is a touchy subject for good reason, and I think we can all agree that responsible sexual practices should be paramount. Perhaps if the religious community (and therefore society in general) weren't so opposed to making condoms accessible to the youth, abortions would be far less frequent.  As would AIDS, especially in sub Saharan Africa.

16.  What would the circumstances be for you to approve of torture as an individual?
It is always a case of which is the lesser evil. On an individual level, anyone can conjure up a multitude of situations where torture would be morally justifiable. However, torture has far too much potential to be abused, and therefore I don't think it has any place in any established government policy.

17.  Should we try to save the animals from going extinct?
Yes, but only if their being threatened is as a result of our environmental irresponsibility. Extinction is a normal and necessary part of evolution, however, biodiversity is what makes an ecosystem strong and flexible. If a species is on the verge of extinction because of competition from another native species separate from any influence on humanity's part, that's just the way things are. If all the fish in a river are dying due to industrial polution and competition from a foriegn species we've introduced, steps should be taken to restore the ecosystem.  
If this were asking whether it is our responsibility to protect species from extinction at the hands of poachers, I'd find even the question offensive.

18.  Do you approve of capital punishment? Explain.
No. All evidence suggests it is not a deterrent to crime. It serves only as a means of vengeance for those who feel wronged. I don't find taking another human life in the name of vengeance a morally justifiable act.

19.  Do you believe in aliens, ghosts, spirits, souls, any supernatural forces?
Supernatural forces and ghosts, absolutely not. However, extraterrestrial life existing somewhere else in the universe, in whatever form it may take, is very nearly a statistical certainty and really should not be grouped together at all with those superstitions. N = R* fp ne fl fi fc L

20.  Would you sacrifice yourself for a loved one with a chance you may end up in hell for being an atheist? 
I can't conceive of a rational answer to this question because it presupposes something irrational. I don't think any benevolent god would condemn someone to hell in this situation. In addition to that, if I were afraid of going to hell, I wouldn't very well be an atheist, would I? In which case the premise falls apart.

21.  Explain in detail the process of death.
Any life form on earth is simply a biochemical machine, where long chain carbon based molecules are either created in photosynthetic processes or are broken, and the resulting energy release is expressed as kenetic, electrical, or other energy discharges. Death is simply when one or more of the critical functions of the biochemical machine loses it's ability to function and the entire machine, dependent on that (among other) functions, cannot perpetuate it's processes. In which case, we die. For instance, there is not enough sodium in the myocardial muscle cells in the heart to continue muscle contractions. The heart stops, and therefore there is no more delivery of oxygen to the cells. Now the cells can no longer combine oxygen with those long chain carbon molecules to extract energy and carry out their own individual functions, and the entire machine fails.

22.  Have you ever been dead?
I had been dead for billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. -Mark Twain

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