‘Memetics is a Dumb Explanation’ says Dennettian ‘naturalist’

The resident professional ‘philosopher’ of TSZ recently wrote this:

“’memes!’ is a dumb explanation.”

Yes, I agree! (Although that person doesn’t seem to know the difference between ‘memes’ and ‘memetics.’ – e.g. I don’t mind ‘memes’ used for popular shared internet links, but that’s not ‘memetics.’)

Well, given the weekend’s significance for a billion+, let’s ‘crucify’ memetics then. Why is ‘memetics’ a dumb explanation? And there’s no need to hold back with merely ‘dumb’. If one is an ideological ‘naturalist’, isn’t one forced into something like ‘memetics’ because they share the same materialist, naturalist, agnostic/atheist worldview as (chuckling at his own supposed lack of self-identity!) Daniel Dennett? Isn’t the built-in materialism of ‘memetics’ what made it so attractive to certain people and for the same reason obviously not attractive or believable to most others?

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Contradictions in the Christian Bible

Contradictions are rife in the Christian bible. Here at The Skeptical Zone we have recently discussed those surrounding how Saul died. We’ve also noted the two conflicting accounts of Judas’ death and what he did with the thirty pieces of silver. There are dozens more.

The Skeptics’ Annotated Bible and The Thinking Atheist are two of several excellent resources on biblical contradictions and absurdities. The sheer volume of contradictions, though, is best demonstrated visually as is done at BibViz:

The creators of this site started with a cross-index of topics in the bible and pulled out those that contradict each other. You can click on the links to get more detail. As a bonus, the site includes references to the sections in the bible that contain Scientific Absurdities & Historical Inaccuracies, Cruelty & Violence, Misogyny, Violence & Discrimination Against Women, and Discrimination Against Homosexuals.

Obviously most Christians aren’t foolish enough to claim their bible is inerrant. Those that do, in the words of Desi Arnaz, have “got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

Who’s Skeptical of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis?

Is anyone here skeptical of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) in biology/biological sciences? If so, why? If not, why not?

Background: A couple of days ago I interviewed one of the participants in the Royal Society’s recent ‘New Trends’ meeting (audios now available), who is obviously pro-EES ,as part of a nearly completed research project from the past couple of years.

My interviewee gave the (ahem) ‘brilliant’ answer of a stone when asked to speak about ‘things that don’t evolve’ (one of those interviewer places where it’s really hard to mask a delighted smile with neutrality!) after claiming not to understand the question: “What are the limits of evolution as a scientific theory?” (we had already been discussing its ‘possibilities’ and I explained earlier that I would ask both about the possibilities and the limits of evolutionary theories). Undergrad students around the world chuckle when they hear the Rock answer (as if geological evolution doesn’t exist in the minds of biologists)!

It’s just a ‘play of scales,’ after all, that slips us into the ‘evolution of everything,’ don’t forget 😉

A Christmas Story

It amazes me how often I hear that Jesus never existed or that scripture is just fiction.

So here are a few rather recently published books for the skeptic who claims to have never seen any evidence that scripture is not fiction or that Jesus ever existed.

Why Are There Differences in the Gospels

Biographies and Jesus

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

Merry Christmas

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Good News For Atheists!

By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are deliverance and strength.’ All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. – Isaiah 45:23-24

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. – John 1:9

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ – John 1:29

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. – John 3:17

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Dembski – Disillusion with fundamentalism

A very interesting blog post by William Dembski:

The old Dembski returns — the one was an old earth creationist before his run-in with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I don’t find this surprising.  I never really believed his capitulation to the fundamentalists.  It always looked like saving his job rather than changing his beliefs.

Still, I found the post quite interesting.  And maybe it will give some folk something better to do than flinging poo at Dawkins’ software.

Radical Agnosticism

A few times I’ve referred to my view about “the God question” as “radical agnosticism.” I thought it might be fun to work through what this means.

For the purposes of this discussion, by “God” I shall mean follow Hart’s definition of God as “the one infinite source of all that is: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things and for that very reason absolutely immanent to all things” (The Experience of God, p. 30).

Next, I shall stipulate that our assertions about the world fall into two classes: those that take a truth-value in all possible worlds and those that take a truth-value only in the actual world. This is a contemporary version of “Hume’s Fork”: there are “relations of ideas”, “truths of reason”, analytic a priori claims and then there are “matters of fact”, “truths of fact,” synthetic a posteriori claims. (There are some reasons to be skeptical of this neat distinction but I’ll leave that aside for now.)

Whether or not God exists would therefore seem to be either a “truth of fact” or a “truth of reason”.  I shall therefore now argue that it cannot be either.

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Godless Intelligent Design Theory

Moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the museum’s Hayden Planetarium, put the odds at 50-50 that our entire existence is a program on someone else’s hard drive. “I think the likelihood may be very high,” he said…Somewhere out there could be a being whose intelligence is that much greater than our own. “We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence,” he said. “If that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just a creation of some other entity for their entertainment.”


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What did Lamarck and Darwin really say?

Historically and conceptually, modern Genetics and modern Evolutionary Theory are closely intertwined. Mendel and Darwin both published their masterpieces in the mid-1800s and both were promptly misunderstood and discounted for half a century. Both theories required several more “kicks at the can” before final acceptance. Put simply: the Theory of Evolution itself evolved in response to an emerging understanding of Genetics.

Some quick questions:

Question: Name the scientist that first suggested “the effects of use and disuse” were passed from one generation to the next?

Answer: Charles Darwin and NOT Jean-Baptiste Lamarck who actually had a somewhat different theory.

Question: Name the scientist who first to employed the term evolve/evolution while also suggesting human beings had “evolved” from apes?

Answer: That would be Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. (Lamarck in fact invented the word “evolution”, a word which never appeared in Darwin’s Book “Origin of the Species”). Continue reading