Friday, August 22, 2014

Godless Grace Manuscript Sent to the Humanist Press

The completed manuscript for our book, Godless Grace: How Non-Believers are Making the World Safer, Richer and Kinder, has been sent to the Humanist Press.

The book was actually two years in the making. My co-author, Linda Ford Blaikie, and I worked diligently over these last eight months specifically to completely research the trends impacting humanist activism and also capture ethnographically many interviews with humanist activists from around the globe.

We are very appreciative to all those who volunteered to be profiled. We are also very thankful to the Humanist Press for their interest in working with us on this project. Linda and I are also both delighted to have had Dr. Phil Zuckerman write the forward and American Atheists, Inc. President, David Silverman, pen the afterward. 

With final editing, book jacket selection and other incidentals we await a firm publication date. I anticipate the book will be available for sale later this year.

Dr. David Orenstein, MLS, MS, Ph.D.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An Ode to Dryopithecus

For those who may not know. Dryopithecus is a transitional primate which is the root ancestor to both ancient and modern apes and humans.  The fossil is dated to have existed in the middle of the Miocene epoch (16 MYA) This species branched into three later animals directly related to gorillas and chimps, one is closely related to orangutans and one branch lead to ancient hominins (australopithecines and us, etc).


Your teeth are raw;
Your adaptations lead
to a more gracile jaw

Walking a 16 million-year journey;
Reaching forward to create a
more diverse primate colony

Apes and humans in all their pieces
Listed as hominids;
We owe our existence to you
a most lovely ancient species

So this may not be a really great poem. But we can certainly see the interdisciplinary nature of anthropology.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

God of the Gaps and Other Lapses

I'm a mammal not a bird - except
in the Bible
If you are ever confronted by an evolution denier, you'll probably be grilled on one of the oldest and nonsensical arguments concerning natural selection. That question will be based on some form of god in the gaps-type query.

Basically, the denier will ask why there are so many gaps in the fossil record or why there aren't clear transitional forms. And, from their indoctrinated perspective,  "if you can't fill in the gaps in the fossil record then evolution is suspect."

This type of question and its associated bad logic is old and is repeated by many who are ignorant or who are just parroting confrontational lines of religious doctrine. In each case rather than actually knowing something about the natural world, their final answer is "God did it" or "God is the first cause."

This is especially easy to refute simply because SCIENCE has filled in the gaps. Every day new fossils are found which confound and contradict creationist arguments for special creation.  When you add these discoveries to what we know from molecular mapping and the sequencing of genomes we see exactly how natural and biological evolution works.

With irrefutable fossil evidence and a wide array of scientific tools at our disposal we can track common descent, we can see and analyze how and where gene drift has occurred, we can track lines of speciation and we can show how adaptations and gene mutations impact the evolution of every species (extinct and alive today) and how gene combinations can create variation within species.

But let's turn this argument on its head. Let's ask the believer "If god is perfect why would this deity create a book with so many gaps, errors, omissions and contradictions and why leave so much of his finest work open to perception, conjecture and interpretation?

After all, why are there so many religions or sects within a particular faith system if there is only one true meaning to god's word? [Editor's Answer: Because all religions are human-made, ego driven and there is no divine. It is all an illusion based of narcissism, authority and fear of death].

Of course the answer from the believer will be "have faith" or "the bible is not the literal word of god but the inspired word of god" or the most irrational and denial-based response which is "there are no gaps, errors, omissions or contractions."

But here are some (Just 8 good ones - there are literary hundreds) of those gaps/contradictions/omissions in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament to confound those who deny natural selection and who accept the bible as fact or as their primary science text:

  • Who did Cain marry? One of the oldest gaps in the bible relates to zero information about Cain's wife's  lineage. The reason for this and the only answer of course is that he married one of his younger sisters. This means the first pair bonding outside of the Adam and Eve story is based on incest. Here is Ken Ham's (Answers in Genesis) and most biblical scholar's response:
"We’re not told when Cain married or many
of the details of other marriages and
 children, but we can say for certain
that Cain’s wife was either his sister
 or a close relative."
  • Why aren't any of the earliest versions of the New Testament written Hebrew or Aramaic? The earliest NT copies are in Greek and mostly written 60-100 years after the events of Jesus were said to take place. This means that for almost 100 years these stories were told as an oral tradition. Now play the game "telephone" with a line a friends and see if the phrase you start with is the one you end up with, especially as you translate the stories into other languages and times this by 100 years from the supposed events
  • God loves everyone and shows mercy always; except when we disobey and then he will smite, destroy and kill unmercifully. Contradiction or just psychotic love? Warning - the answers to the question from the website I've linked to will scare the shit out of you!
  • The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John each place various and different people inside Jesus' tomb after the alleged crucifixion. Perhaps a small mismatching but still how can there be "perfection" when the stories do not concur?
  • It's ok to own slaves in the HB and NT. Now what could be a worse or immoral act than human bondage? So why does God and the "Price of Peace" have no issue with or outright reject slavery
  • If slaves didn't have it bad women have as worse. Women are to follow their husbands as slaves are to follow their masters; are not to be priests, are unclean, are the recipients of suffering due to Eve's casting all humanity into sin. No liberation for women - you can tell it was just men who wrote the HB and NT
  • Why does the HB classify bats as birds? They are mammals. Apparently God does not know taxonomic classification. And even if this is just a translation issue it just shows that man, not any supernatural deity, actually conceived this faulty text
  • God calls the moon a "lesser light." The moon does not give off light the way we and certainly 5,000BCE Bedouins accept it. The moon reflects light from the sun. So when the HB refers to big and little light (sun/moon) as equal, the writers certainly didn't know what they were writing about. 
If it is presumed that god is the perfect creator of all things, which we are told is the case by every religion and religious follower, and if this entity gets all these and many other things wrong, cannot we safely have a degree of skepticism that other passages are also wrong, dated and misguided?

How can we expect to have faith in the HB or any of its offshoots if there is such a high degree of fallacy and controversy within the texts? This controversy is not just among non-believers and the religious but between those who ARE religious from various faith traditions who view their dogma as true and other dogmas as false. Or equally controversial are those who see things differently within the same faith but represent different sects of a particular religion.

God and organized faith then are each a fallacy for us to ponder. Not by examining the divine but as a subject for the social sciences and humanities. As the active concepts of god and religion impact our civilization but sit outside of reality and inside our fertile human imagination. Each a sole creation by man in his earliest attempt to understand nature and explain death.