Another Review of My Book: "Comprehensiveness" Sets it Apart From Other Atheist Works

Link
John W. Loftus’ Why I Became an Atheist: a Former Preacher Rejects Christianity doesn't really blaze new ground, but it does cover a lot of it.

In fact, this comprehensiveness is a key distinctive that separates it from the work of the "New Atheist" trio, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris.

Uniquely, Loftus provides a taste of all these critiques in his over 400-page, densely-packed tome. In other words, if one were look for a recent survey text for atheistic argumentation, this book would more than suffice.
To read other reviews click here.

28 comments:

nblaw said...

Thanks John for the link. Best regards,
Richard

Kel said...

I started reading your book yesterday. No matter how many times I see it, it still shocks me that in the 20/21st centuries that there are those who will dismiss science for the sake of faith. That anyone could be an intellectual and argue for creationism still is beyond me.

Anyway, enjoying the book so far, it's really well written. I really like that you talk about the philosophy of religion as there is really no point in reading yet another attack on faith from a scientific perspective. When theists don't care that we see galaxies 13 billion light years away or see a progressive fossil record that matches variation in genetic code and morphology, what can you do but argue on their terms?

feeno said...

Kel

Although I am from this century, I am not a intellectual so maybe this wont shock you?

Have you ever heard of Hiparchus? Some might consider him the father of Astronomy? About 150 years before Christ he figured there was probably 1,080 stars. Then about 150 years after Christ, Ptolemy re did the count and figured it was closer to 1,060.

I've said before on this site that science is great, but the more we learn the more science has to change. I think you would agree with the bible that stars are countless.

1,000 years before christ Psalms (102:25-27) tells us that God laid the foundations of the Earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands, they will perish but you will remain, they will wear out like a garment. like clothing you will change them and they will be discareded, but you remain the same and your years will never end. You like science, this sounds like the 2nd law of thermodynamics?

Early people had lots of ideas about who or what held the Earth up. Job knew, he says "God suspends the Earth over nothing".

As far as we see galaxies 13 billion light years away, I'd probably agree. But whats your point? However the jury is still out on your fossil records.

I'm going to bed, good night if your still up. I'll check you out tomorrow. Peace out, feeno

Kel said...

What do you mean the jury is out on the fossil record? The fossil record alone stands as a testament to evolution (just look at the transitional fossils for whales or the feathered dinosaurs) yet it's just one line of evidence of many that supports evolutionary theory.

It was only a decade ago when we didn't have any transitional fish to tetrapod forms. We had lobe-finned fish around 380MYA, early amphibians at 365MYA, yet there was a gap in between. So to find a transitional fossil one would need to look in rock that is ~370 million years old, and not just any rock but rock deposited by freshwater sediment - no point in looking for a partly land-dwelling creature at the bottom of the ocean... anyway, a trip to the arctic circle and looking in rocks of the right age yields several species of the fishapod now known as Tiktaalik.

So the jury is still out on the fossil record? I don't think so. It hasn't been for a long time, and even though with genetics we can show precise relationships between species (though ERV markers, pseudogenes, genetic drift, etc.), even when we can see that these genetic markers line up with morphological variation, the fossil record has captured in time species that no longer exist, some of which show commonalities that only make sense in the light of evolution.

Kel said...

As for the bible predicting more stars than the astronomers of the day, it's a largely mute point. Understanding of the universe changes over time, and the despite the psalms saying the earth is fixed and can never move, not only are we rotating while orbiting the sun, but the sun is orbiting around a supermassive blackhole like the other 200,000,000 to 400,000,000 stars that sit in our galaxy. Does the bible predict any of that in clear unambiguous terms?

As for finding galaxies over 13 billion light years away (remember that that was the distance away when the light left the galaxy, not it's distance now) it shows that the universe is over 13 billion years old. Just as when radiometric dating shows that the earth has to be at least 4.4 billion years old, and in all likelihood around 4.55 billion years old. The point is that we for the first time have the ability to understand the way the universe works, and follow evidence to new and frightening conclusions whatever they may be.

The bible fails as a science book, it fails as a natural history book. So that's what is surprising when I find out that people still believe in a 6,000 year old earth, and that we were handcrafted out of clay. None of the scientific evidence supports that conclusion, yet people persist thinking that the bible somehow has divine insight that no matter how hard we test for, all we find is contrary evidence.

Jeff said...

feeno,

A while back I found a few YouTube videos that lay out the evidence for evolution pretty clearly. I think you might find them interesting at the very least :) They don't entirely cover what you were talking about with the stars and such, but deal with genetics and the fossil record, etc.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1fGkFuHIu0

Check it out, there's four parts (about 10 minutes each) so make sure to watch them all. It may clear up whether the "jury is out" on the fossil record or not. Have a good one!

Jeff

feeno said...

Kel

I sure do get in over my head sometime. I thought I was smarter than that, to get in these type of discussions? I really don't even know what the hell I'm talking about half the time.

However your response was very well articulated, and the least I could do is be polite and try to answer.

Fossil records if anything are only proving the gaps are getting bigger and bigger. (You can argue that, but you will find very competent scientist/Paleontologists on both sides of that)

Your fish story is just that, The transitional fossil records you want to claim take bigger leaps than Carl Lewis. For example, let's look at your Tiktaalik Roseae. Your side would claim at best that over a 15 million year period, over 350 million years ago a half fish, half crocodile evolved. So lets give it a cool name like fishapod and hang our evolution hopes on this.

Where are all the fossil records we were gonna get over these last 150 years to support these claims?

I do believe like science that the world is expanding. (Is 40:22), does that also answer the 13 billion year old Earth question as well?

My daughter spent 10 days in Brisbane and only had good things to say about ya'll down under.

G'day Mate, feeno

feeno said...

Jeff

If I get 40 minutes I'd rather spend it at "Disjointed Thinking" an excellent blog!

Se you over there. feeno

MH said...

The beauty of truth is that it has many interlocking parts.

Fossil record not doing it for you? Try ERVs or human chromosome 2 or Professor Lenski's evolved citrate eating bacteria. Now that ubiquitous genetic sequencing is available more avenues of inquiry are becoming available.

ERVs are endogenous retro viruses, viruses that insert themselves into the DNA in cells. Sometimes they do this into germ cells, and get passed along to every child from then on.

All creatures on the planet have these, and we can track ancestors in this completely separate way. And it lines up with our other data for evolution exactly.

Human chromosome 2 (HC.2) is the second largest HC in the human body. It has a second deactivated centromere, and remnants of telomeres inside the chromosome, which means in the ancient past 2 chromosomes fused and became HC.2.

And wouldnt you know it, when we compare it to our simian cousins, we see that 2 of their chromosomes match HC.2. After we split off from the common ancestor, the 2 HCs fused and became HC.2, while they stayed the same along the other line.

Professor Lenski took bacteria that could not eat citrate, and put them into a citrate rich medium. He saved off every 100 generations of bateria. After 33,000 generations they started to metabolize citrate.

Turns out that it took 3 separate mutations to get to these bacteria, a change at 21k, 23k and then the final one at 33k.

Geology has its own facts that show the world is billions of years old. You have to believe the truth in order to work in geology, nothing else fits. Theres canyons the size of the grand canyon, buried under hundreds of feet of earth.

You can find geologists that started out young earth that had to come to terms with the reality of the old earth.

feeno said...

MH

I knew you were gonna say that.

Peace, feeno

Anthony said...

Feeno: If I get 40 minutes I'd rather spend it at "Disjointed Thinking" an excellent blog!

Feeno please don't take this the wrong way, but are you saying that you are not willing to spend 40 minutes to educate yourself on a topic that you obviously do not know much about? And no, reading what creationists say or watching creationist videos is not educating yourself. There are actually some decent books (I'm not sure about videos) demonstrating the evidence of evolution by evangelical scholars (who would have thunk).

John W. Loftus said...

Feeno, I guess what I wrote earlier applies to you as well.

Become informed on an issue if you wish to speak about it, okay?

feeno said...

Anthony

I figured you'd be sitting in the rain right now at the G.A.B.P?

Good for those Evangelical scholars, I hope they sell a lot of books. We can put them in the same group as those non christian scientists that believe in some sort of intelligent designer.

I know I don't know much on the subject, but dang it I was hoping it wasn't obvious. But is there something specific I said that you disagree with?

I know before you de-converted you took it seriously and did quite a bit of research, and you just can't believe if we all did the same research you did, why we all wouldn't come to the same conclusion that you did.

But let's face it, there's only so much we can take. Do you want to spend endless hours in "fundie" literature?

Oh and I hope you don't think I was being rude to Jeff, the blog I mentioned "Disjointed Thinking" is his blog. And I check it out every day.

And I didn't take it the wrong way, thanks for the thought.

Well it's the 7th inning stretch and we are down 2-1, put on your ralley cap. Peace out Home Slice, feeno

feeno said...

John

I agree I might be outmatched in some of these areas, and I will adhere to your rules, but explain where I'm off base?

Your still my favorite, feeno

Kel said...

Fossil records if anything are only proving the gaps are getting bigger and bigger.
Yes, it's called shifting the goal-post. Every fossil we find means that there are 2 more missing in between. Yet even despite that, we still have some very complete fossil records. There are about 9 different fossils that show the gradual transition from land-mammal to cetacean. There's a good evolutionary picture of the horse. And we have so many Hominina skulls that we have to discern what species would have been the ancestors of humans and what were cousins.

As I mentioned before, we have many feathered dinosaurs. Not only was the discovery in 1861 of Archaeopteryx validation of of evolutionary theory (sharing both saurian and avian characteristics) but it's led to the discovery of many other feathered dinosaurs. In the 1990s, the fossil record exploded with discoveries of all sorts of feathered dinosaurs - at all different stages too. It goes from everything from protofeathers to fully-feathered beasts, yet very few were fliers. They were there to a) keep the dinosaur warm as they were warm-blooded, and for displays - two other things modern-day birds use their feathers for.

Your fish story is just that
No, it's a demonstration of the power of science. Through multiple disciplines: geology, palaeontology, and evolutionary biology, a prediction was made about that species being at the exact place in the rocks it was discovered. And do I think 15 million years is enough? Given how fast natural selection has been shown to work - 15 million years is more than enough.


does that also answer the 13 billion year old Earth question as well?The earth is 4.55 billion years old, not 13. The oldest rock we have found on earth dates ~4.3 billion years old, the oldest mineral dates at ~4.4 billion years old. Plate tectonics are churning the rocks in the earth so finding older is nigh on impossible. Yet we can properly date the earth through meteorites, because those would have formed at the same time as the solar system did. And those date to ~4.58 billion years, the same age as the sun dated through the rate of hydrogen and helium in its core.




If you really want I can throw facts at you all day, but they are all going to go over your head. The fossil record is not the only source of evidence for evolution, it's just really really cool. If you need me to, I can go into genetics, biogeographical distribution, vestigial traits, comparative morphology, DNA sequencing, evo-devo and a whole bunch of other evidence for evolution. But I'm guessing it won't matter. You've made up your mind that Goddidit and it doesn't matter what evidence we find, you will never accept the possibility that evolution is how Goddidit.

And that is what shocked me about reading the book; that an intellectual Christian, although an apologist, ignored any disagreeable science. Though I laugh at the irony of seeing anti-science people on the internet, because they are sitting at a device that only works because of quantum physics, yet can do more mathematical calculations per second than the human race combined. Science works, and if that's incompatible with God, then surely you can accept the hypocrisy of sitting at a computer while preaching that science is inadequate.

In the future, I advise you to actually see what evidence there is for a topic before arguing against it. Arguing from ignorance only works when you are arguing with the ignorant. Some of us know better.

Kel said...

I know I don't know much on the subject, but dang it I was hoping it wasn't obvious.
The scientifically-illiterate really stand out, because science requires both knowledge of facts and an understanding of the processes involved. That there's an observed galaxy 13 billion light years away is only significant if one realises that it means by looking at it we are looking back in time. And this requires an understanding about the nature of light and an understanding of the way it's measured.

Likewise when it comes to evolution, I could list transitional fossils until the cows come home. But without knowing what a transitional fossil is, doing so would be useless. It's hard to come across a creationist who knows what a transitional fossil is meant to look like (see: crocoduck.) Yet to tie a fossil to evolution, it needs an understanding of how the processes work, the role of mutation and selection, the role of isolation and speciation. And above all, it requires an understanding of how that one piece of evidence fits into the whole.

The transitional whale fossils are useless on their own. But because there are multiple of them and in the fossil record we can see that as we move up through the geological shelf that there's a gradual change over time. Yet whales still have a pelvis, and some whales are even born with vestigial leg bones in the same way that very occasionally humans are born with a tail.


Yet it's easy to spot a creationist from a long distance, because they are the ones who are proud to be scientifically-illiterate. They don't know science, and they don't want to know science, so they'll argue from the bible thinking that their holy book trumps the last few hundred years of empirical inquiry and testing. They'll not be afraid to yell out "evolution is wrong" without even being able to give a scientific definition of the theory. Hell, most of them don't even know what theory in science means (hint: gravity is a theory.)


Point is, if anyone is going to argue from ignorance, they will be shown up by anyone with even a semblance of knowledge on the subject. Just imagine if I argued that Christianity cannot be true because it's absurd that the universe started when a dinosaur fell into a quantum fluctuation thus beginning the universe she was already part of. Would you think I had a solid grasp on Christianity if I said that? If not, then why is it any different when a creationist speaks out on matters of science?

feeno said...

Kel

There isn't really much for me to say. But once again you are at least entitled to some sort of response, you were right, I was wrong, you are smart, I'm full of crap, you are North Carolina and I am Michigan St.

John, thanx for not piling on.

Peace be to you all, feeno

Kel said...

Honestly I'm just getting sick to death of creationists who open their mouth of a topic they are completely ignorant of. Why is there such pride in being scientifically illiterate? Why is it they'll turn to priests for answers on science instead of actually finding out from scientists how the world works?

The naturalistic explanation should never kill God, but it does kill dogma. And that's where I see the difference between a Creationist and a Christian. Creationists don't believe in God, Creationists believe in the bible. We finally have the tools to understand the natural world, yet people revert to a dogma written at a time when it was believed that earthquakes were the result of gay sex. The theory of evolution is no more atheistic than the theory of gravity (which we don't have an observed mechanism for yet - should we talk of intelligent falling? ;) ) or the atomic theory. Science can only deal with the natural world. Why is it an omnipotent, omniscient being could not have used the natural laws to bring about the universe and everything in it?


Just remember what you are using right now - a device that can do more calculations per second than the entire human race combined. The reason we look to science for answers about the natural world is that science continually provides results, and the self-critical nature of the process is what drives it. You should read those books that John Loftus recommended, I especially recommend Your Inner Fish - it's such a fascinating read. Why Evolution Is True should be good too if you want to see the evidence for evolution.

Remember that ignorance is no crime, but remaining so while arguing on the matter is ;)

feeno said...

Kel

You say these things as if they are fact. Certainly you know there are many scientists, some believers and some not that wouldn't agree with you. I can give you a list of thier names and the books they have written if you wish.

My wife might tell you that having straight sex causes earth quakes, (what can I say)

And yes, I need to learn quite a bit more on these matters, and I will and I will be back. try to say I'll be back like Schwartzenager, sounds cooler.

Thank you Kel, come visit my blog. I gave you your due.
Peace out, feeno

Kel said...

Yes, there's always bound to be a few scientists who say something significant. The true test of measure of that though is not the ability to speak out, but to fight for the ideas in academia. Remember that everything we believe now in science was met with initial scepticism and hostility - it's just that in the end evidence matters.

Which facts do you disagree with? Do you disagree with them because they are scientifically weak, or because they do not fit your worldview? Are you simply looking for a few scientists who coincide with your worldview and then appealing to their authority?

The simple fact remains, when you get down to it - there's only a handful of biologists out of millions around the world who reject evolution. And there is good reason too, for the universe not to be old the laws of physics would have to be wrong. e=mc² would be false, nuclear physics would have to be dead wrong. Our measure of galaxies is based on the distance light travels in order to reach us, our measure of the earth is based on the radiometric decay. Yet in these techniques, they have been used to close on 100 years now, with each new piece of evidence that gets to be tested another possible falsification.

I can understand that you don't wish it to be true, and thus you'll resonate to anyone who will share your view. It may be that these people are right, but if they aren't fighting for these ideas among their peers - making falsifiable predictions and explaining all the evidence, then they are not doing science.


Just think of it this way, there are more historians who deny there was a holocaust than biologists who reject evolution. Not that the number matters, it's the evidence for evolution that matters and in 150 not a single piece of evidence has ever shown evolution to be false. Remember that tale of Tiktaalik you dismissed as a story? That's the predictive power of a good theory in action.

Kel said...

I guess what I was trying to say before is that time and time again, creationist arguments are debunked in the scientific community, yet the arguments still persist. Book after book comes out attacking evolution, yet despite the refutations and the staggering amounts of positive evidence for the theory, these attacks persist. Yet these attacks are not born out of any actual weakness in the theory, rather that the theory isn't permitted by the dogma so the science is rejected. This is a good site to start on for any specific claim you may have.

Ideas in science change over time, it's a state of tentative knowledge. But to break a "scientific truth", it requires convincing other scientists that the evidence supports that. Yet creationists don't operate in the academic circles, they operate in the public arena - publishing books and selling the theory to non-scientists. By doing this, they are not doing science - they are just evangelising.


Are there any points of contention that you have with the theory, any pieces of evidence you don't feel fit? Do you understand the relationships between the different scientific disciplines? Do you understand the difference between the words: hypothesis, theory, fact, and law? Can you even give a coherent definition of how evolution works?

Jeff said...

feeno,

Thanks for the plug for my blog, but I can say with humility that the person who created the videos I linked to is much more knowledgeable than I am - your 40 minutes will be better spent watching it than reading my drivel :P But with that said, even if you can only find the time for 10 minutes, watching the first video will give you several important (and really cool!) evidences for evolution. Just think about it - you may spend a half hour watching a mindless television show. For the same amount of time, you could increase your knowledge of the world in which we live and your understanding of how it functions. How's that for a great deal?

And Kel, that's an excellent site. Just wanted to mention that when I was trying to evaluate the truth of evolution, I actually went and read every single one of those entries :S It was...long. But educational.

feeno said...

Jeff

Thank you, I will check out at least the first 10 min. And see where that takes me?

Peace be with you, feeno

feeno said...

Jeff

I'm having no luck finding the youtube video. Maybe there is another way to get there?

Late, feeno

Kel said...

I jsut realised that in my post where I put the number of stars in the galaxy, I was off by 3 digits. It should be 200,000,000,000 to 400,000,000,000 stars in our galaxy as opposed to 200,000,000 to 400,000,000 stars.

Jeff said...

Hmm, well it works for me. I'll make it a link, hopefully that will work for you :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1fGkFuHIu0

feeno said...

Jeff

Yes, that did the trick, and yes I actually watched the first 2 segments. I'll watch the other two later. But I'm sure you know I can't just believe it because that guy says so. once I investigate the issues and research them further I'll get back to you at D.T. I guess it wont kill me to become better informed, I never thought of myself as someone who really cares about this stuff, but if it is gonna make me have more credibility amongst evolutionists, it's the least I can do.

Later Homie, feeno

Jeff said...

Absolutely - don't take his word for it by any means. That's the best way to approach any issue. Lemme know what you think of them when you're finished :)